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The evolving nature of divorce in Florida: Is mediation right for you?

Mediation is a less contentious process than a traditional courtroom divorce.

The days of a divorce automatically leading to a courtroom battle are no longer the norm. The world of family law has changed and in many instances both parents desire to continue an active role in their children's lives. In fact, changes in Florida law over the past few years require Courts and parties to develop a "parenting plan" that meet the needs of the children, as well as presumptively allowing both parents to spend a substantial amount of time with their kids. These co-parenting plans are becoming the norm because they focus on the children and their needs and seek to maintain relationships between parent and child. No longer is "custody" a win-or-lose battle. This is supported by a recent publication in Psychology Today which notes that co-parenting (also known as shared parenting) after divorce is often optimal for child development and well-being.

These changes are leading many to take advantage of a less contentious way to end a marriage: mediation.

More on mediation

Mediation is a process that focuses on negotiation. It utilizes a neutral third-party mediator to help develop an amicable resolution. Mediation is designed to reduce the trauma that can accompany a divorce proceeding. This is particularly important in situations where children are involved. Although divorce ends the marriage relationship, the parental relationship continues.

A recent article in Forbes discussed this process, noting mediation can help ease the transition that occurs when parents divorce. In fact, the financial and emotional benefits of mediation are well suited to families going through divorce. Mediation generally costs significantly less than a traditional divorce and is designed to promote open communication. This can help families establish their new, post-divorce life.

Mediation and Florida law

Mediation in Florida is conducted by a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator. The mediator is required to remain neutral and work for the good of both parties, always striving to bring the parties together for a mutually agreeable resolution. Parties may attend mediation voluntarily, or, in some cases, the Court may refer the parties to a mediation before any trial is heard in front of the Judge. The mediator can address the issues that arise during a divorce, including:

  • Equitable Distribution/Division of assets. During the divorce proceeding, assets and debts accumulated during the marriage must be split.
  • Alimony. In Florida, it is possible to receive permanent alimony, lump sum alimony or rehabilitative alimony. A mediator can help develop the agreement if one party is seeking a form of alimony.
  • Shared parenting plan. Issues involving time-sharing and child support payments as well as medical and educational costs can also be addressed.

Although there are many benefits to mediation, it is not the best option for every divorce. Instances of domestic abuse or situations where one spouse is unwilling to compromise are better candidates for the more traditional divorce proceeding.

Mediation and legal counsel

Those going through mediation are wise to seek the counsel of an experienced family law attorney that understands both the litigation and mediation aspects of a divorce. This legal professional will advocate for your rights during the negotiation, working to better ensure your interests are protected.

Keywords: family law divorce mediation

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