Mediation first came into use in the 1980s in Florida. It is required in all divorce and family law cases in Palm Beach County and in most Florida counties. In the past, attorneys would negotiate agreements, trying to make a professional assessment as to what the court would do if the matter were decided by the judge.Mediation is the preferable path to allow parties to retain their personal power to make decisions that impact their family. More and more settlements are coming out of the mediation process The use of a neutral mediator to facilitate settlement is preferable to allowing the judge to tell the parties what to do. Mediation must occur before either a temporary relief hearing or a trial if the case remains contested. Preparation for hearing or trial requires many hours of a lawyers time to properly present the issues in court. In contrast, mediation is a cost effective mechanism to resolve the party’s issues. Mediation is designed to limit the pain and stress of a contested trial allowing the parties to fashion their own agreement without the intervention of the court. The law offices of Stephen J. Press is highly experienced in the mediation process and in the drafting of extremely thorough mediation agreements.
Each party must be present at mediation. If a party has an attorney the attorney will appear and represent the party at mediation. When the mediation starts the mediator must describe the mediation process and the role of the mediator. The mediator must inform the parties that:
- Mediation is a consensual process.
- The mediator is an impartial facilitator without authority to impose a resolution or decide an aspect of the case.
- All communications during the mediation are confidential.
After the introductory remarks by the mediator the parties and their attorneys usually go into separate rooms with the mediator practicing "shuttle diplomacy" between the rooms. Offers of settlement are communicated by the parties and their attorneys through the mediator. A partial settlement or a complete settlement can be reached at mediation.
A written agreement, referred to as a mediation agreement or marital settlement agreement is drafted by the mediator and/or the attorneys. When children are involved the agreement will include a parenting plan and a child support guidelines worksheet for calculating child support. If the agreement covers all issues in the case, the agreement signed by the parties can be presented to the court at an uncontested final hearing. Usually the court will adopt the party’s agreement and incorporate it in the final judgment.
It is extremely important to review the agreement carefully because the parties will be bound by their bargain, even if it favors one side. The party’s agreement concerning property division alimony is binding and will be adopted by the court. However, it is the general rule in Florida that settlement provisions concerning child support and the parenting plan, including the time sharing schedule, must be reviewed by the court as being in the best interest of the minor children.Contact a West Palm Beach Mediation Attorney
Mediation may play a significant role in your divorce or family law case. It is extremely important to have an experienced attorney in all aspects of mediation. For more information about mediation, please call an experienced West Palm Beach mediation attorney at (561) 833-2772 or contact us online for a free consultation.