RD- an actual child support client
"My case was handled quickly and with ease."
01/10/2014
RD- an actual child support client
"My case was handled quickly and with ease."
01/10/2014
“Prospective clients may not obtain the same or similar results.”
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Family Mediation

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Family in need of attorney

The Gainesville Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Yochim P.A. represent mothers and fathers in all aspects of family law proceedings involving child custody. Mediation has continued to emerge as an essential component in the resolution of many family-law-related proceedings. While mediation is a practical solution for some, for many others the process is altogether inappropriate. The following, presented in a series of parts, discussing the process of family mediation in Florida.

What is Mediation?

While there are many forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution, mediation is the most common form of ADR used in family law matters. Pursuant to Florida Statute §44.1011(2), mediation is defined as:

a process whereby a neutral third person called a mediator acts to encourage and facilitate the resolution of a dispute between two or more parties. It is an informal and nonadversarial process with the objective of helping the disputing parties reach a mutually acceptable and voluntary agreement. In mediation, decisionmaking authority rests with the parties. The role of the mediator includes, but is not limited to, assisting the parties in identifying issues, fostering joint problem solving, and exploring settlement alternatives.”

What is Family Mediation?

Just as there are several types of ADR, the process of mediation, too, can be broken down into distinct sub-parts, based upon the nature, status, or stage of the case involved. Family Mediation is an example of specific type of mediation, defined by Florida Statute §44.1011(2)(d), as:

mediation of family matters, including married and unmarried persons, before and after judgments involving dissolution of marriage; property division; shared or sole parental responsibility; or child support, custody, and visitation involving emotional or financial considerations not usually present in other circuit civil cases. Negotiations in family mediation are primarily conducted by the parties. Counsel for each party may attend the mediation conference and privately communicate with their clients. However, presence of counsel is not required, and, in the discretion of the mediator, and with the agreement of the parties, mediation may proceed in the absence of counsel unless otherwise ordered by the court.”

Is Mediation Required?

Depending on the factual circumstances involved, mediation can be a mandatory requirement in some family law matters. In some cases the judge must refer the parties to mediation, in other cases the judge may refer the parties to mediation pursuant to discretionary authority provided by statute. Sometimes the parties voluntarily agree to participate in mediation, which, in essence, will generally make attendance a requirement.

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Referral to Mediation was improper, what do I do?

Fortunately, there are remedies available. For example, if the court enters an order of referral (to mediation), and a party wishes to contest the referral, that party can respond by filing a timely motion, which states appropriate grounds for dispensing of mediation. Grounds to dispense include:

  • The issue(s) to be considered have been previously mediated
  • The issues(s) to be considered present a question of law (as opposed to factual dispute)
  • Order violates rule, law, or administrative order (i.e. history of domestic violence)
  • Other good cause

Mediation was scheduled and I can’t attend, what do I do?

Parents should know that there are ways of deferring, cancelling, waiving, or dispensing with mediation, in some circumstances, even when a court order or party agreement has already resulted in the matter being scheduled for mediation. However, similar to contesting to an order of referral, timing is critical, proper grounds must be asserted, and when required, documentation must be provided to the court.

What if I fail to attend?

In no event should a parent avoid mediation in a manner that violates the terms of a court order, binding agreement, or a provision set forth under Florida law. Not only can violations impact the outcome in a custody proceeding, but there can be additional consequences as well, such as:

  • Sanctions (attorney fees, mediations costs)
  • Civil Contempt
  • Subsequent Court Order compelling attendance

 

To continue reading, see ‘The Mediation Process.’