When could I, should I, or do I, need to go to Mediation, and what is Mediation, temporary or otherwise anyway?
Mediation is a powerful tool in helping Parties resolve some or all their issues in a Dissolution of Marriage proceeding or otherwise. In Palm Beach County, Florida for example, a party wanting to go before a judge to request any kind of temporary relief, such as for child or spousal support, attorney’s or accounting fees or otherwise, must first attend a mediation on temporary matters. In fact, unless there are extenuating circumstances, a judge will not even provide a hearing date on any such temporary matters until a mediation on temporary issues occur.
Temporary matters are defined as, all matters which occur, and/or need to be addressed while the actual Dissolution of Marriage Proceeding is still going on and before the entry of Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage. This is the time period between the date of the filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, until the entry of a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage. Temporary support matters are generally defined as, and typically include issues such as temporary spousal support, temporary child support, temporary housing issues, temporary fee issues and even temporary time sharing issues regarding the Parties minor children with the Parties.
Mediation can be a very powerful tool if it is used at the right time, but usually only after obtaining enough information, financial or otherwise, prior to the mediation so that the mediation process can be fruitful. Mediation is meaningful because it allows Parties to fully participate in the resolution and/or outcome of their own case with the assistance of their lawyer. Mediation allows the Parties to be personally involved in the negotiation/resolution process of their case. This is important because Parties themselves have the power to agree to things that a judge would not necessarily have the authority or discretion to grant at a trial or at a hearing under Florida law. This may include matters such as one party wanting the party to pay for a child’s college education for the Parties children or otherwise. In Florida, a judge could not legally order either party to do such a thing. However, Parties if they themselves agreed to any particular matter in a “Mediation Settlement Agreement”, the obligation would then become a binding contractual obligation between the Parties, which a judge could now subsequently enforce with the contempt powers of the court, even though the judge could not have ordered the same at a trial themselves.
So what is mediation anyway?
Mediation is in essence an informal settlement proceeding whereby the Parties as well as their counsel attend an informal settlement conference. The mediator in essence is a disinterested third party participant whose only role is to attempt to facilitate a resolution of the case between the Parties. A mediator has no authority to make decisions, or to compel either of the parties to do anything. Rather, the mediator is a facilitator to assist the parties in attempting to reach a resolution satisfactory to both parties if possible. The mediation process is confidential in nature, and as such cannot be disclosed to any third parties not a party or participant in the mediation. In the event that the mediation is unsuccessful in resolving the case, any and all issues raised at any such mediation are inadmissible in any subsequent court proceedings. Logically, this is to prevent a chilling effect in the process itself. No one would want to partake in the mediation process if they knew if the case didn’t settle, that any offers they made at mediation could be used against them in court.
Ultimately, in the event the parties are unable to agree to settle their case at mediation or otherwise, a judge who is most often not very familiar with the issues of their case or the Parties themselves, will make major decisions which will usually have a substantial and long lasting impact upon the Parties, their children and their lives. This of course, does not even begin to address the additional costs both financially and emotionally upon the Parties to take their case to trial. Parties in Florida are generally required to attend a mediation prior to going to trial in their case, so it’s best to be as prepared as possible prior the mediation to enable them to take the best advantage of the mediation process.
Let Schwartz | White Attorneys at Law answer any and all questions you may have about Mediation and the Mediation process before, during and after the filing of a divorce.