Welcome to Part 2 of my 3 part series on the process of getting divorced. In Part 2, I will discuss Mediation and the role Mediation plays in divorce cases. In the future, my hope is to discuss Mediation in more detail and place more emphasis on effective conflict resolution techniques, but, for now, this post will discuss Mediation in general.
As discussed in Part 1, many parties are lost as to the process of divorce. Many believe that it is necessary to have a full case/trial and have a judge decide the issues of their divorce. This is simply not true. Divorce is merely the process in which married parties’ decide their martial issues (dividing assets and liabilities, providing spousal and child support, and parenting issues). All of these issues can be decided upon by the parties themselves. Therefore, the real purpose of divorce proceedings is to have the parties reach terms as to how life will be for both parties after they are divorced. If parties reach an agreement, the Courts will honor that agreement, which means the Courts will not need to take any action to decide the parties’ issues. One way to reach such an agreement is through the process of mediation.
Mediation is a process in which the parties resolve their legal issues/disputes by utilizing a mediator. A mediator is a person who attempts to make people involved in a conflict come to an agreement. The mediator acts a neutral third party to help the parties reach an agreement by listening to the parties discuss their marital issues. Effective mediators will help the parties reach an agreement by highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of both parties’ situations, as the situations relate to the applicable laws. The mediator will encourage the parties to compromise by helping them to see a much larger picture instead of just the smaller issues that involved parties usually focus on. A mediator’s job is not to provide the parties with legal advice. If the parties need advice on what legal options are available to them, and/or what legal action they should take, they need to individually retain the services of an experienced Marital and Family Law attorney. It is always my recommendation that parties retain individual legal counsel, so that each party is fully advised on the applicable laws and the legal options at their disposal.
Clearly, this description emphasizes the importance of the parties to choose and utilize an effective mediator, as it should. The effectiveness of the mediation will directly reflect the effectiveness of the mediator. Ineffective mediators are a waste of both time and money, so what makes a mediator effective?
In relation to divorces or other family law issues, such as paternity cases, effective mediators are usually legal professionals who practice or have practiced in the area of marital and family law. In Florida, as in most states, Martial and Family law is a very particular legal field that has its own particular statutes (laws) and rules of procedure. Therefore, it is important to retain a mediator who is knowledgeable on the current laws and rules in order to help the parties make effective decisions. Again, mediators are not to give the parties’ legal advice, but to ensure that when or if the parties reach an agreement that the terms of the agreement are properly drafted and meet certain legal standards. One example is that parties may not enter into an agreement that allows a party to pay less child support than what is allowed by the Florida Child Support Guidelines. A knowledgeable and effective mediator will be able to properly calculate the parties’ minimum allowable child support obligations. This way, the parties will not enter into an agreement that a judge will not and cannot later accept. In order to help parties identify knowledgeable and effective mediators, the Florida Supreme Court has certain standards in which mediators can become certified. I highly recommend that when parties retain a mediator that they retain a mediator who is certified because their certification ensures that they have obtained a certain level of experience in mediating Marital and Family Law disputes.
Piece of Advice: When parties come to my office I rarely advise them to prepare for a trial. Instead, I advise them to prepare for mediation because it is always more advantageous for my clients to settle at mediation. First, it allows my clients to still keep control over what decisions are being made over what is most dear to them. Second, when my clients enter into a mediated agreement, they know exactly what they can expect. Having a trial and forcing a Judge to resolve issues is unpredictable. Judges are people to, and you never know what type of mood they will be in, what party they will find more credible, and whether or not they are going to make a mistake (that is right Judges make mistakes…it has happened…more than once). Therefore, I remind my clients that is advantageous for them to reach an agreement, and lay these issues to rest.
Immortal Words on reaching agreements at Mediation: “I am not asking whether or not you like it; I am asking whether or not you can live with it.”
To the readers, I hope this blog posting has been informative. Mediation can be a very effective process for parties to resolve their differences. However, it is not without its inherent pros and cons. Therefore, it is important to speak with experienced legal professionals (attorneys and mediators) who know how to help clients through their legal proceedings. Attorney Catherine S. Eaton, Esquire is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Law Mediator. She has the experience necessary to help parties reach agreements and move on with their lives. Helping families is why we are A FAMILY FIRM BECAUSE FAMILY MATTERS.