Why must I attend mediation before being heard by the judge in a cause of action after my divorce?
Whenever a post-judgment family law case is initiated, as a prerequisite to scheduling a hearing before the presiding judge or general magistrate, the court requires that the parties submit such issues to mediation.
In our jurisdiction, such post-judgment matters are automatically referred to mediation without further order of the court. The party initiating the post judgment action will have the responsibility of initially contacting mediator for scheduling. There are two types of mediation, one with a program run by the state at a reduced fee. The other with a private mediator. You should know that even during the divorce process, many of our courts in Florida require that mediation occur before a final hearing.
Notwithstanding this, any party may request the presiding judge to waive the requirement of mandatory mediation of post-judgment parenting plan or timesharing disputes. The judge will waive such requirement in cases where the judge finds there has been a history of domestic violence that would compromise the mediation process. The judge may also waive the requirement if it appears mediation of the issues would not be appropriate under the circumstances of the case or because of exigent circumstances a hearing before the judge should be expedited.
Mediation is an informal meeting. Typically, you and your attorney will be in one room and your spouse and his / her attorney will be in another. Now with COVID-19 precautions, most of our mediations are handled via telephone and / or Zoom rather than in person but has been equally effective. Please consider that the mediator will be a family law attorney, a retired attorney or a retired judge who is skilled in the mediation process.
The mediator will be objective and will not advocate for either side. Mediators are precluded from giving any legal advice and have no judicial authority. Rather, the mediator will assist you and your spouse in effectuating a settlement. If the main issue of your claim relates to a financial issues, then mediation often works best when all of the financial documents have been exchanged and all issues to be litigated have been identified. However, there are exceptions to this general statement.
Mediation is an opportunity for you to reach a compromise and amicably resolve the outstanding issues. Because what is discussed at mediation is confidential, it gives the parties a platform to discuss matters freely without the concern that what is offered and / or discussed during mediation will be held over your head in a court of law. That lends itself for an outstanding opportunity to resolve all or some of the issues of your case. Mediation is usually scheduled in blocks of 2 hours but can be extended to the entire day if the parties are making progress to resolve matters.
At the conclusion of the mediation, if the parties have reached any sort of agreement on the issues, then the mediator will memorialize the agreement to be filed with the court. Once the agreement is filed then in post dissolution of marriage case, your case is concluded without a further hearing before the court. If there is no agreement reached, no worries, the mediator will only report that no agreement was reached and then your case will proceed to be heard before a court of law.
Therefore, if you are involved in a post dissolution of marriage case, we recommend from the onset you work on scheduling your mediation quickly for an expedited resolution to your case. At our firm our experienced lawyers can guide you through the mediation process. Board Certified Attorney Ellen Ostmann is also a certified mediator.
To learn more about mediation and family law cases in Florida, call or contact us online to speak with a lawyer from Robert Sparks Attorneys.