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Orlando Divorce Mediation Lawyers
In Orlando and the surrounding counties, mediation is required in most contested divorce cases. Prior to having your case heard by a judge, you must attend mediation. Judges encourage mediation as it promotes judicial economy and allows the parties to resolve their issue without a costly and lengthy trial. Additionally, mediation allows the parties control over the outcome of their case. At mediation the parties are able to develop creative solutions, in court a Judge is restricted by case law and statute. Additionally, the issues presented in a divorce are extraordinarily personal. It may not be in your best interest to have a stranger in a robe make decisions that will impact your future. While many people believe that their divorce will not settle at mediation, most cases resolve at mediation or shortly thereafter.
The Mediation Process
A mediator is not a judge or an arbitrator. The mediator has no power to resolve a case or make a decision regarding your case. The mediator is simply a third-party neutral that is hired to help facilitate negotiations. Typically, family law and divorce mediators are experienced family law attorneys or former judges who are well versed in the law. A mediator cannot give legal advice, but a mediator may challenge the positions of each party to demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses in their case and expose the potential risks of proceeding to trial.
Mediation is a confidential process
Mediation is a confidential process. This means that settlement offer will never be disclosed to the court. All settlement negotiations are inadmissible in court, so that the parties are encouraged to negotiate freely in good faith. The trial Judge is only allowed to know (1) if the parties appeared and mediation and (2) if a settlement was reached. The trial judge does not receive any other information regarding the mediation. Maintaining the confidentiality of mediation is crucial to encouraging settlement and is strictly enforced by most trial courts.
Partial Agreements at Mediation
During mediation the parties may reach a partial mediation agreement. While a partial agreement does not resolve the case in its entirety, it limits the issues that must be resolved by the trial court. This helps to reduce attorneys’ fees and promotes judicial economy. For example, the parties may be able to reach an agreement as to how their property will be divided, but cannot agree on whether alimony should be awarded. In these cases, the parties can enter into a partial mediation agreement to resolve the property distribution (also known as equitable distribution), but will leave the alimony portion of the case to be resolved by the trial judge. In certain cases, this may be beneficial as it allows the trial judge to focus on the issues that are truly contested.
Temporary Agreements at Mediation
Temporary agreements are also common during mediation. A temporary agreement resolves an issue on a temporary bases, but still allows the trial judge to make the final determination. For example, the Father may want to enter into an agreement where he has the minor child 50% of the time. The Mother may object because she does not believe the Father’s work schedule will allow him to exercise his timesharing with the minor child 50% of the time. The parties may enter into a temporary agreement to allow the Father to demonstrate that his work schedule will permit him to be with the minor child 50% of the time. Temporary agreements are also commonly used when there is a dispute as to the amount of alimony that should be paid.