WHAT IS MEDIATION?
Mediation is a negotiation process that endeavors to resolve disputes fairly and efficiently. In mediation sessions, Diane Danois, a former litigation attorney and certified Florida Supreme Court Family Mediator, will help you reach a mutually satisfactory Marital Settlement Agreement by creating an environment that facilitates productive communication. Contentious issues are identified and explored in a safe and non-threatening environment, where you and your spouse (either with or without attorneys) calmly discuss the issues that need to be resolved in order to produce a Mediation Agreement (also known as a Marital Settlement Agreement). Once the details of your Mediated Marital Settlement Agreement are agreed upon and signed, this agreement can be filed with your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and you can be scheduled for your final hearing.
The goal of our mediation is to resolve the issues that stand in the way of a satisfactory agreement. Depending on the complexity of the case, a mediation can usually be completed in one or two sessions (the length of each session is typically 3 hours, but can be tailored to your needs.) Mediation is voluntary, a mediator cannot force parties to settle. The resolution of the mediation process is in the hands of the parties, not the court system. The process provides and encourages the opportunity for each party to seek and obtain expert legal and financial information and advice before signing their settlement. Legal Strategy Services cannot provide such advice. Legal Strategy Services conducts mediations where clients have their own attorney present, as well as parties who choose to represent themselves (pro se litigants.) If representing yourself, if desired, you can each take the mediation agreement to your own attorney for review before you approve it. Legal Strategy Services can incorporate any final changes to the agreement before you sign it as long as both parties are agreeable to any such changes; the document can then be prepared to be filed as an uncontested divorce with the court.
A litigated divorce is an expensive proposition. Hiring an attorney to settle your family law dispute is expensive. The more you litigate (the more you disagree) the more legal costs you will incur. Legal Strategy Services can reduce this financial burden by thousands of dollars by working out an agreement, issue by issue, while both parties are present (not necessarily in the same room). A Mediatied Marital Settlement Agreement outlines the issues you agree on in order to file your uncontested divorce, including:
- Preparation of Parenting Plan [including child custody/time-sharing and parenting responsibilities]
- Division of assets and debts (Equitable Distribution)
- Alimony, if applicable
- Child support
- Any other issues which need to be resolved between the parties
Mediatied Marital Settlement Agreements can be complete or partial. If there are issue(s) that you simply cannot come to an agreement on, these are left for the court to decide. However, it is always best to try to reach an agreement on all issues – the court will not assist in “designing” your agreement and will follow statutory law which does not consider the particular needs of your family.
Remember the mediation process is confidential. Discussions, agreements, or concessions are not admissible in any subsequent proceeding (unless where required by law) except for the finalized, signed mediated agreement.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT DURING A MEDIATION?
A mediation session typically begins with a joint meeting of the parties (and their attorneys, if attorneys are involved.) We then explain the format of the proceedings, and give an opening statement to define protocol, set ground rules and further explain the mediation process. Each party will also have an opportunity to make a brief presentation of their case in order to encapsulate major issues. Together, we will confirm the issues to be discussed in an agenda format. Parties should not interrupt each other; you will each have the opportunity to fully share your side of the story.
Sometimes it is productive for the mediator to meet privately with each party or to “caucus”. This gives a chance for each party to speak more candidly and openly about their concerns. The caucus can be a forum to develop options for settlement in a confidential setting away from the other party. A caucus may be used several times during mediation.
Legal Strategy Services endeavors to facilitate an environment that is conducive to a settlement that will be agreeable to both parties. This is your mediation; it is where decisions are made that prepare you for the next step in your life. Mediation participants should plan to actively participate in mediation for at least three hours. We ask that you do not bring children or personal third parties to mediation sessions. Mediation is most successful when parties focus on the task at hand without outside distractions.