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How Mediation Comes Into Play During Divorce

On Behalf of | Mar 12, 2024 | Family Law

Most Florida divorces are resolved out of court after the parties negotiate a settlement. The spouses file paperwork with the court, and they need the court’s final approval to make sure their settlement follows the law, but ultimately the spouses are the people deciding on all the details of child custody and property division.

Typically, the spouses (each represented by their own counsel) must go through a lot of negotiation before they can make these decisions and formalize them in an agreement. These negotiations can be difficult even if the divorce is relatively amicable and the spouses are able to act civilly with each other. The nature of the system leads each side to resist compromise and push for as much as they can get out of a settlement.

Sometimes, what the spouses need is a third party who can break through the adversarial nature of the process in order to help both sides reach an agreement.

That’s the purpose of a mediator.

Neutral third party

A mediator is a neutral third party hired by both sides and not choosing one over the other. Unlike a judge or an arbitrator, a mediator doesn’t have the power to render a decision. Instead, the mediator’s role is to facilitate the negotiations and gently push both sides toward agreement. The sooner they reach agreement, the less expensive the process and the earlier they can put the divorce behind them.

If the mediation is successful, the parties sign an agreement and send it off to the court for approval.

Where mediation works best

Mediation can help speed up the process of negotiating a settlement in many types of divorces, but it is particularly well-suited to cases involving parents who have young children and must work out a child custody arrangement. These parents must continue to work together to coordinate parenting schedules and so it’s especially important to reduce the animosity and lingering bad feelings that are so common with our adversarial legal system. This can make school drop-offs and pickups easier for the parents, and can help shelter the children from some of the ugliness of divorce.

That said, mediation can also help spouses who don’t have young children, and with issues such as property division and spousal support. So long as both sides are knowledgeable about the issues and committed to reaching agreement, mediation can smooth the process.

Most courts require mediation and will conduct them over Zoom to avoid direct contact, this is especially important in contentious divorces or divorces involving domestic violence.