Mediation in divorce and family law cases is a way for the people involved to directly take part in the outcome. Otherwise, strangers who know very little about the true nature of the dispute will make decisions for those involved in the case. Mediation is a process where you have a neutral third person acting as a referee of sorts to help the parties involved see if an agreement can been reached. Any issue can be resolved in mediation, from child support and alimony to the division of marital assets. The mediator is not on anyone’s side, but uses logic, experience, and his or her knowledge of family law to help each side understand the other person’s viewpoint and what could possibly happen if the case were to go to trial.
Mediators can differ a lot in style, but in general, he or she will start with one side and explain the rules and the process to the person. The same will be done for the person on the other side. In a typical divorce case, the parties involved will be the husband and his lawyer on one side and the wife and her lawyer on the other side. Although with same sex marriages being more prevalent, variations of this scenario are possible. Some mediators will do the initial process disclosure with both parties present in the same room in order to save time. Afterwards, the parties are split, and each side will explain its position and may make an offer to the other party, or they may send an invitation to receive an offer from the other side.
Mediation is not strictly required under Florida law, but the Family Law Rules of Procedure, in rule 12.740, give judges discretion to send parties to mediation prior to cases being set for trial. With as much to do as the average family law judge, mediation is an attractive idea. It saves the judge time, and it gives the parties a chance to participate in the result. Also, mediation allows the parties to get creative and have more flexibility regarding an outcome than the judge has. Most judges I’ve practiced in front of as a Jacksonville divorce lawyer are patient, insightful, and all other things that make good judges. They all have also been human, however. In light of the possibility for human error or for something to appear different than what it really is, mediation is a good way to protect yourself from the possibility of not having things go your way in court. In the spirit of reaching a resolution, there has to be a willingness to compromise in some regards. Keep in mind that no one can be forced in mediation to do what he or she is unwilling to do. If no agreement is reached, the parties are free to set the case for trial.