William Orth has been a licensed Florida Attorney practicing primarily Family Law for over ten years. He is also a Supreme Court Certified Family Law Mediator. He has handled thousands of cases in the mediation process both as a litigator representing one of the parties and as the Family Law Mediator for both parties with attorneys and for parties without an attorney.
More than half of all marriages end in divorce. Litigating your divorce can be very costly and very time consuming. Once you decide to go to trial, you lose control over the outcome of the process. You are allowing a Judge to decide the issues in your case which could include asset and liability distribution and minor child issues. In the vast majority of cases, mediation offers you a better alternative to litigation. In fact, all Judges in Central Florida require at least one mediation session before a Family Law case is scheduled for trial, regardless of whether the case is a Petition to Establish Paternity or a Petition for Dissolution.. This is mainly because the Courts realize that mediation is a far more efficient process and a better forum in which to resolve most Family Law cases. Mediation also allows the parties to maintain some control over outcome. You and the other party know your issues better than anyone else.
All family law issues, including equitable distribution, shared parental responsibility, disputes regarding children and custody, child support, time-sharing (visitation) and spousal support can be effectively resolved through mediation. And remember you, and not a Judge with limited information, will be in control over your case.
I stated above that litigation and trial can be very costly. Attorney fees and costs in relation to litigating and trial can be thousands if not more. Mediation is substantially less expensive – often times between $750 and $2,000 depending on the issues and time.
Mediation can occur at any time; even before either you or the other party files a petition in Court. A complete agreement can be reached “pre-filing” and then filed along with an uncontested petition. Mediation can also occur either with or without attorney’s representing either party. A certified mediator is unable to offer either party legal advice, therefore, all parties are encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney of their choice before mediation and/or prior to signing a mediation agreement. However, an experienced mediator may utilize their vast knowledge and experience, as well as provide necessary legal information to each party, with a focus and goal to facilitate productive discussion between parties in order to reach a complete agreement. Either a partial or complete agreement can be prepared during the course of mediation and then filed with the court.
Mediation is a confidential process, therefore, the parties are free to discuss any and all issues that concern them and make any offers of settlement knowing that all communications conducted during mediation are to remain private. There are only a few exceptions to confidentiality which apply in a very limited number or cases. In most cases, therefore, the only information a mediator provides to the Court is that mediation was conducted and whether an agreement was reached. It may take more than one session of mediation to reach an agreement, however, once an agreement is reached, it is filed with the Court and considered your final agreement. The Court may then enter a Final Judgment incorporating the terms of your mediation agreement.