Mediation is a voluntary process in which parties work together to come to a mutually acceptable resolution to some or all of the issues in their case. While mediation is voluntary, it is often required by the Court that parties attend mediation. This means that the parties must attend the mediation, but it remains voluntary in the sense that the Court is not ordering the parties to settle their case. In fact, with a few exceptions, the discussions that occur in mediation are confidential and cannot be relayed to the Judge unless it is in the form of an agreement. This allows parties to speak freely and openly in mediation and work together to try to reach a resolution without fear that their words will be used against them.
Nearly every Orlando family law case must go to mediation before the parties are allowed to request that the Judge decide the issues in their case. Mediation is an important part of the process in family law cases, as it allows the parties control over the outcome of their case. If a mediation agreement is reached, it is because both parties found it acceptable. The issues that need to be resolved in family law cases are highly personal, and it can be uncomfortable to have a Judge dictate a resolution regarding the most intimate parts of people’s lives. Mediation is also beneficial to the parties because settlements in mediation save the parties the expense and stress of a trial. The experienced Orlando family law attorneys at DeWitt Law Firm settles a large majority of its family law cases in mediation, and would be honored to represent you in your mediation.
Nobody can say with certainty how much your divorce will cost. If your divorce is truly uncontested and you and your spouse can agree to everything in a marital settlement agreement without a lot of negotiating back and forth, the attorney’s fees will range from 1500 to 1700 dollars, plus costs, which usually amount to about $500. If your divorce is contested, the total cost of the divorce will depend on the number of contested issues and the intensity with which they are litigated. Going to trial can be very expensive. If a family owned business is involved, for example, that business may need to be valued by a financial professional. The cost of that valuation can be substantial. If children’s issues are involved, a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) may be appointed to investigate the best interests of the children and to make time-sharing and other recommendations to the court. GAL’s are usually paid hourly and can be costly depending on the extent of the conflict between the parties and the unresolved legal issues.
If you would like to discuss your particular situation with us, we can give you a much better idea of what the costs are likely to be for you.
If everybody agrees and the divorce is uncontested, it is possible to get divorced fairly quickly. 60 to 90 days is not an unreasonable time-frame provided that the parties exchange the required information and execute the marital settlement agreement in a timely manner.
When divorces are contested, it is a lot more difficult to predict how long they will take. Experts need time to conduct evaluations, information must be exchanged through the discovery process, and in most situations, the parties must complete the mediation process before going to trial. I am sure some of you may be familiar with the movie The War of the Roses. That movie represents the worst divorce scenario where the divorce takes forever and the parties destroy their home and themselves in the process. With proper guidance and support, the horrors of this fictional scenario may be avoided. However, some contested divorces do become ugly and can last a long time. For example, a trial may result in a decision that is appealed by one side. The appeal process significantly lengthens the time to finalize all of the issues in a contested divorce.
The more issues there are between the couple and the more difficult it is for the couple to find common ground, the longer the process is likely to take.
It is imperative that a parent with a minor or dependent child or children consult with a qualified attorney prior to relocating. In 2006, Florida enacted a new statute that addressed a parent’s relocation with a child. This statute sets forth a specific and technical procedure that must be complied with prior to relocation. Failure to comply with this statute can result in very harsh repercussions, including alterations of the time-sharing/custody arrangement.
The 2009 version of the Florida Statute titled Parental Relocation with a Child defined relocation with a series of criteria. In this particular version of the statute, a move would not be considered relocation if it were not more than 50 miles from the place of residence when the time-sharing/custody schedule was made or last modified, and a stay of less 60 days was generally not considered relocation. It is important to note that this statute has been amended since its 2006 enactment, and it is likely that it will be amended in the future. Even subtle changes can have a large impact, so you should consult with a qualified attorney to ensure that you are aware of the current obligations imposed by the statute. Dewitt Law Firm has handled many of these cases, and we would be honored to assist you with an agreed upon relocation or a contested relocation.
When parties cannot agree on time-sharing with the children, the court must decide after hearing evidence and testimony from both sides and others familiar with the relationship of the children to the parents.
The court looks at a variety of factors that are set forth in the Florida Statutes to make this determination. For example, the court looks to the history of the relationship between the children and each parent, how the children relate to each parent, the nature of the bond between parent and child, which parent is more likely to foster a good relationship between the children and the other parent, and which is more likely to share information and to encourage frequent time-sharing with the other.
Sometimes a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is appointed by the court to help it make these determinations. The role of a GAL is to investigate the statutory factors and to make a recommendation to the court as to what is in the child(ren)’s best interest.
It is very important that you talk with us about any issues or concerns you have about your children. The actions you take could have an impact on a court’s decision regarding timesharing. Therefore, you should consult with us as soon as you anticipate a divorce or separation.
In Florida, a final judgment can be modified only if there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the divorce and it is in the child(ren)’s best interest that it be modified. A party seeking to modify the Final Judgment has the burden of proving the existence of both of these factors.
This burden, however, can be overcome under the right circumstances. If you think your situation warrants a change in the Final Judgment, please set an appointment to speak with us about the specifics of your case so we can advise you on this matter.
No, you do not absolutely need an attorney to get a divorce. It is possible to get a divorce without an attorney. However, we strongly recommend that if you own a house or any real estate, you have a family business, or you have children together, that you not try to represent yourself. There are too many opportunities for things to go wrong in these circumstances.
Many individuals come to us after obtaining divorces without attorneys because situations arise which they did not anticipate at the time of their divorces, the agreements they signed were ambiguous or contained errors, or worse yet, did not accurately reflect their agreement. The help of an attorney familiar with real estate, business and children’s issues could have avoided many of these problems.
Do not trust yourself to deal with the complex legal issues when real estate, businesses or children are involved in your divorce. For those issues, you need a professional.