What Role Does the Mediator Play During a Family Law Mediation?

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To begin with let’s look at why there needs to be a mediation in the first place. In the state of Florida almost every case involving Family Law requires mediation before the case can be scheduled for court and a hearing before a judge. This is done for several reasons. Primarily the court system hopes the parties involved in a Family Law matter such as dissolution of marriage (divorce), child support and/or parental timesharing (custody and visitation) for parties not married, post-judgment modification of alimony, child support, parental timesharing and/or the parenting plan will be able to work out a solution to their concerns by compromise. This way is so much better as it allows persons to set the path to their future themselves, thus avoiding having a judge tell them how it will be. This is called empowerment. While judges try to be fair, they are human, and often make decisions very unsatisfactory and hurtful to one or the other party. This is especially true in a state like Florida where equitable distribution, not equal distribution, of assets and debts is the law. Further, mediation costs much less than going to court, both in attorney and legal fees. It is also faster and less emotional than a day in court. Too, the proceedings and outcome of mediation are private, not on record for the public to view, as are court proceedings.

Admittedly mediations are a good idea, but why is a mediator needed? Why can’t two parties and their attorneys work things out without a mediator? The state of Florida requires a mediator to be credentialed as a Supreme Court Certified Civil Mediator so he/she will be able to carry out the functions which make a mediation work effectively, The role of a mediator in Florida includes the following, all of which are important in helping parties compromise and come to a well-intentioned agreement.

1. Before mediation is held, the mediator will speak with involved attorneys to make sure each side is ready to negotiate and each side understands concerns pertinent to the case being mediated.
2. At the beginning of the mediation the mediator will explain to all in attendance the rules of mediation as mandated by their state of residence. He/she will also explain the advantages of reaching a settlement during mediation versus having a judge make the decisions necessary to bring the case to final judgment.
3. As a mediator is not a judge, he/she cannot resolve matters being negotiated. Rather the role of a mediator is to facilitate compromise by gently guiding both parties to a reasonable outcome. Mediators may not offer legal advice, offer opinions as to either party’s considerations and decisions, or make decisions of any kind involving the case.
4. Encouraging each side to listen carefully to how each party would like the final outcome to be realized, a mediator reminds everyone present there will likely need to be give and take on both sides for an agreement to be reached.
5. A mediator takes offers from one party to the other will continually encouraging compromise. No one will end up with everything they hoped for so “give a little, take a little” is the best way to go.
6. Given a reasonable time, if no agreement is reached the mediator will end the negotiations. If an agreement is reached the mediator will draft a settlement agreement to be signed by both parties and then given to the judge. If no agreement is reached the mediator will notify the judge both sides were present at the mediation and they were not able to come to an agreement.

By having a trained mediator to oversee and help each party work through a mediation allows the whole process of trying to reach a settlement without having to go to court have a much better chance of success. If you have further questions regarding mediation or mediators in Florida, you can contact Family law Martin County, or Family Law attorney West Palm Beach.


Grant J. Gisondo is the founder of the Family Law section at Clarfield, Okon, Salomone & Pincus, PL and most recently founded Grant J. Gisondo, P.A. to focus his practice on family and marital law with offices in Palm Beach Gardens serving Martin County, Saint Lucie County, Broward County, Miami-Dade County, Hillsborough and Orange County.

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