As a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator, we focus on opening the lines of communication and allowing the parties to explore all settlement options in order to resolve disputes.
Everything said to the mediator during mediation is confidential and may not be repeated to anyone other than the other party with your permission, and/or the party’s attorney as directed (except if you have or plan to commit a crime as mediators are mandatory reporters by law per Florida Statute 44.405). Mediation gives parties more control over the outcome of their case. And, it normally allows the case to be resolved much faster, which can save thousands of dollars on the overall expense involved in the divorce, custody dispute, adoption, etc.
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During mediation, parties work on an agreement of issues including:
-Division of Assets & Debts - What is a fair and equitable distribution of the assets required and debts incurred during the marriage? Who will get what? Who will pay for what?
-Alimony – Will either party seek permanent alimony, lump sum alimony, or rehabilitative alimony for a specified time?
-Other Entitlements – Are there any other entitlements, such as retirement earnings, to be considered or divided?
-Shared Parenting Plan – If children were born or adopted during the marriage, what is an agreeable shared parenting plan? What type of schedule works in the best interests of the children and both parents? If shared time-sharing is not tenable, the focus will shift to creating arrangements and a schedule for visitation with the children.
-How much child support will be paid, if any? Will it be by agreement between parties or per Florida Statute or an amount of mutual agreement?
-How much life and/or health insurance for the children will be provided by either or both parents?
-Who will pay for uncovered medical and/or dental expenses?
-How will future education costs be shared or provided?
-Who will be the designated parent for school zoning?
-How will the children’s education/daycare decisions be made? Or, how will payments for child care be divided?
How to prepare for mediation.
•Work with your attorney or financial advisor to write down your goals for mediation.
•Write down a list of items you are willing to compromise on, and a list of items you are not.
•Create a comprehensive, realistic household budget and complete your Florida Financial Affidavit and Disclosures. Provide them to the other party before mediation if possible. This speeds up the process. The other party may also ask for proof/documentation of the expenses or assets listed on your affidavit. Please provide those before mediation.
By mediating these things, you maintain control over your personal limits throughout the process. At no time during the mediation process should you feel pressured to make compromises you are not truly comfortable with. But luckily, there is usually a middle ground that can be found with open communications and a neutral party to cool tempers and provide appropriate, reflective feedback to put issues into perspective.
By comparison, taking your divorce to court can cost between $5,000.00 and $20,000.00 per party. That means together you could spend up to $40,000. This reduces the amount of money available for either party to get. So, it’s important to consider mediation as the first step to preserve the family’s assets.
Some of the factors which drive the cost of divorce include:
• The parties can’t agree on a parenting plan (custody) for the children.
• One party wants alimony and the other refuses to pay it or you can’t agree on how much.
• There are significant assets in the marital estate that need to be liquidated or divided.
• There is a prenuptial agreement which was poorly drafted and subject to challenge.
• One of the parties seeks to relocate the minor children to another state or area outside reasonable time-sharing ability.
• One or both of the parties are dysfunctional, unreasonable, or suffer from some form of mental health condition.
This list certainly isn’t exhaustive, but you get the point.
Family mediation starts by working for 15-20 minutes with each party to get an idea of the starting points and the sticking points for each of you. We typically start with easier issues first to build mutual confidence in the process. These may be property division, or co-parenting schedules if those things had already been discussed previously. Then, issue by issue, we will go back and forth to present compromises and propose terms. As issues are resolved, we mark them off the list and move on. The more issues we can resolve in the process, the happier you both will be when it’s over.
In the end, we will review everything that is agreed to with each party, and get you both to sign off on the agreement. A formalized version of your settlement will be provided to both of your attorneys later if it cannot be completed during the session. This settlement is legally binding and fully enforceable in court; whether all issues were settled or only some of them. The document will outline what was settled and that leaves any remaining issues, if any, to resolve in court.
Virtual mediation is conducted via Zoom and is approved by all Florida courts. You must DOWNLOAD ZOOM https://zoom.us/download prior to your virtual mediation so you can login to the secure session. But you do not need to create or purchase an account. Joining a Zoom meeting is as simple as clicking the custom meeting link you will be sent via email before the session.
Within the Zoom session, you and your attorney will be separated into a private breakout room so that the other party cannot hear or see you. Just like with in-person mediation, we will go back and forth between the secured rooms to work with each party. All virtual mediation sessions are still confidential, and private, and sessions are never recorded. We recommend finding a quiet/private place, with strong internet access to do your Zoom mediation session.
Please email Danielle@PondFamilyMediation.com if you run into any technical difficulties. Most attorneys are very familiar with Zoom now also, so your attorney should also be able to assist you.