Mediation is a tool parties can use to privately resolve their disputes outside of the courtroom. A judge will not decide the issues the parties can resolve at a mediation. However, Florida judges always retain discretion to determine if the parenting plan and child support agreement the parties reach at mediation are in their minor children’s best interest.
Many people ask how mediation differs from a collaborative divorce. While mediation and the collaborative law process are both private alternative dispute resolution processes where parties work with trained professionals to constructively resolve their differences outside of the court room, each have their unique rules and processes. Mediation is, at its core, a meeting where the parties and their attorneys, if any, meet with a trained mediator who facilitates their conversation and helps them in their negotiations of a resolution. Collaborative law is a process that spans a longer period (often months) and usually involves two or more neutral professionals.
Often people ask if they must have an attorney to go to a mediation. This is not true. At a minimum, both parties and a mediator must be present for a mediation to take place. Often, one or both of the parties have attorneys attend as well. While it does not have to have an attorney present, parties must be mindful that the mediator cannot give legal advice which is why many parties find it helpful to have an attorney attend to give them recommendations and advice to help them make an informed decision.
A mediator is a neutral and impartial professional dedicated to helping parties amicably resolve their conflict, if possible. Mediators are not decisionmakers and cannot impose or recommend a resolution. Their primary focus is to control the mediation process and help with the parties’ negotiations. The mediator will conduct the mediation session in a balanced way and ensure everyone at the mediation is behaving in a non-adversarial and non-coercive manner.
Mediation can address all types of conflict. There are very few restrictions on topics that can be mediated.
Belinda Lazzara, Esq., BCS is an experienced Florida Supreme Court Family Law Mediator. She has ample experience attending and conducting family law mediations.
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