Mediation is a helpful tool for many families involved in divorce or other family disputes. It allows each party to express their thoughts and concerns about a given situation and determine solutions to problems such as child custody, child support and visitation, as well as the division of any assets and debts in a divorce. Mediation is the only opportunity for your to directly determine the outcome of these situations, as a judge in a courtroom will make the decisions that he or she feels is best and may not meet your personal expectations.
Determine if Mediation is Right For Your Family
Mediation is a great solution for families and provides a safe space to talk about concerns and to make decisions with the help of a mediator. It can be a very cost effective approach to solving the conflicts that you face. It is also a way to make the process of separation and divorce much easier for your family.
Find a Mediator
Mediators are third-party individuals who can assist you in determining the best outcome for your family. They are trained professionals that can help couples to reach an agreement through the least adversarial route and create a more personal way of reaching resolutions. Finding a family mediator that has a background in family law is usually the best route to making sure that the mediator understands your family and will work for your best needs.
Consider Hiring an Attorney
If there are legal issues included in your divorce such as money or property, or would like legal advice regarding the mediation process, it is a wise decision to consult an attorney. They can help you to learn about the mediation process, and determine the best strategy for your family. You can also request that your attorney join you for mediation.
Types of Mediation
A common type of mediation, in family law cases, is pre-suit mediation. In a pre-suit mediation, you and your spouse or parent mediate the case before filing a lawsuit. Each side can go to mediation either as a pro se party or hire an attorney. Usually, in a pre-suit mediation all the issues are mediated and settled before a law suit is filed. Once all the issues are settled, a mediated agreement is written up and signed by the parties. This mediated agreement can then be filed together with the dissolution of marriage petition.
The other type of mediation, is mediation during litigation. Here, one of the parties has filed a petition for dissolution of marriage and most of the time the parties have exchanged what is called mandatory disclosure documents. In Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach county, the judge will almost always order mediation to attempt settling the case before the case can be scheduled for trial. Also, many times during pending litigation you may come to the conclusion that mediation is beneficial for your case, or your attorney, if you are represented, will recommend mediation before proceeding to trial in an attempt to avoid unnecessary trial expenses.
Evaluate the Issues
You may not have all of the answers, and your ideas about the solutions for your family may change, but it is important to consider a few key points before entering mediation. The issues you are sure to discuss are often very sensitive and are riddled with emotions, but it is important to remember that through this tough time, you are making decisions that will be most healthy for your family and your future:
Questions you will want to consider include:
- What is the conflict really about that caused this situation? Are you able to consider the other party’s point of view?
- What are your child’s most important needs and best interests?
- Are you decisions being influenced by misunderstandings or hurt feelings?
- What issues do you and the other party agree and disagree about?
- What are key points that would help you to change your mind about certain things? (information, finances, legal rules)
- Are there things that you and the other party can agree to that would help to end this dispute?
- What is your ultimate goal for mediation? Do you understand the other party’s ultimate goal?
- What will help you feel that mediation was successful? What do you need to be satisfied with the results?
- What will happen if you do not reach an agreement? What are the alternatives?
- How comfortable are you with not reaching an agreement? (Taking into consideration time, going to court, added stress)
- What could the other party do to make you upset? How can you work to avoid that situation?
Gather Relevant Information
If you believe that family mediation would be right for your family, being prepared with all relevant information is the first step to getting things taken care of. It is important to gather:
- Bank statements
- Retirement or other asset account statements
- Credit card or other debt statements
- Credit reports
- Monthly Bill Statements
- Health Insurance Expenses
- Medical/Dental Expenses
- Auto Expenses
- Income Information (Salary, Unemployment, SSI, etc.)
These materials will make decisions much more clearly defined when it comes to financial decisions as well as child support requests.
Remember to Keep an Open Mind
During mediation, you may hear things that you do not agree with or are uncomfortable hearing. This is the time to have an open mind and try to see things from the other party’s point of view. It will always help if you at least try to understand why the other person is making a particular request. This can also help if the other party sees that you are making an effort to truly work together, and as a sign of respect, it is reasonable to expect that other party will reciprocate those actions. If there is a point of disagreement, it is important that the disagreement is handled calmly and respectfully, which can keep the mediation on a positive track to resolution.
Prepare to Negotiate
It is not reasonable to walk into a mediation session and expect that all of your requests will be met. The point of mediation is to open up a safe space for discussion to take place and for proper compromises to happen. This is an opportunity to develop a positive communication that will lay the ground work for the future of your family. This will ensure that the plan that you develop will be designed to meet your family’s needs, and that the best interests of the children involved are in the forefront.
Schedule a Follow Up Session if Needed
Mediation is not always successful on the first session. Often times, parties will come to a sort of agreement that they need to sleep on and truly consider how their lives will be if they agree to this plan. Also, if you are unable to agree to all terms in the mediation, this is an opportunity to think about other possible solutions to bring to the table. This is totally normal, and a follow up session is the perfect way to discuss any further concerns about the situation.
Mediation is an important option in the divorce or child custody process that Seff & Capizzi Law Group takes seriously. At Seff & Capizzi Law Group, we regularly assist clients and provide valuable information for those that need assistance in understanding how to approach this particular situation in their own lives.
If you think that mediation is an option you would like to pursue, please call us at (954) 920-9220. We have over 40 years of experience and offer a free consultation. Click here for more information about our family law practice and how Seff & Capizzi can help.