Whether it be a dissolution of marriage, separation, paternity matter, modification of a previous court order or some other type of dispute, mediation or alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is the best way to proceed.

You and your family will always be in a better position to reach your own resolution than to have a judge decide how your property should be divided or how you may schedule time with your children. 

So, what do you need to know before you go to mediation?

First, there is a general explanation about mediation with FAQs on the Florida Courts website at   https://www.flcourts.org/Resources-Services

Mediator Fees: Find out the hourly rate charged by the mediator and reach an agreement on how those fees will be paid. They are generally 50/50 unless the parties agree otherwise. You will be asked for a deposit in advance of the first meeting and you need to be prepared to pay the fees in full at the completion of the mediation.

Legal advice: The Mediator cannot give legal advice to either party. The Mediator is neutral.

 It is a good idea to have some understanding of the laws related to family cases. You can have a consultation with an attorney and you can also look at the laws governing these proceedings. The Florida Statutes, Chapter 61 covers family law; Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure covers the rules and provides sample forms.

 If you reach an agreement at mediation, the Mediator will likely recommend that you show the agreement to an attorney to make sure that you understand the implications and applications of the agreement.

Sometimes families are able to settle their issues in one session of several hours or a whole day. Others are more comfortable having shorter sessions and meeting more than once or twice. That will be determined between you and the Mediator.

What to bring to Mediation:

  1. A Financial Affidavit:

You need a list of your assets and liabilities, income, and expenses. You can find this form at Fla. Fam. Law. R.P. 12.902. This information will assist you and the mediator to reach an agreement on how to divide your properties. The Financial Affidavit will also be helpful in calculating child support.

  1. Prepare your proposed shared parenting plan.

(For minor children)

The parenting plan must include your child(ren)’s ages and be based upon a schedule for time-sharing that works for both parents and is age-appropriate for the children. See Fla. Fam. Law R.P. 12.995, forms A-C

Consider your child’s activities and each parent’s ability to meet those obligations. Make notes of any special needs that the child(ren) may have.

3. A Child Support Worksheet; See Fla. Fam. Law R.P. 12.902 (e)

4. Bring any current pleadings or prior agreements that you have.

5. Be aware that if there has been a Domestic Violence Injunction issued between the parties, you may not mediate without court permission.

6. Clear your mind – by that I mean, you must ask yourself what is your purpose for going to mediation. Do you really want to resolve the issues?

Are you ready to have some serious conversations about what might happen in the future? 

Additional Family Law Forms and information about general instructions for court proceedings can be found on the Florida Courts website at Flcourts.org/resources-services.

By Hon. Sandy Karlan

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