Your Agreement & Court Papers
Some mediations are court ordered, but otherwise mediation is a voluntary process. In all mediations, including court ordered mediation, the choice as to whether to settle the issues and sign a settlement agreement is completely voluntary. Many times the goal of both of you in mediation is to arrive at an agreement, and when that is the case our primary goal in mediation is to arrive at an agreement and prepare a settlement agreement or agreements for you to sign.
In a divorce, for example, if there are minor children, resolving the matter involves arriving at two agreements – a Marital Settlement Agreement, to settle the property, debt and other financial issues, including child support and health insurance for the children; and also a specialized agreement regarding children’s issues called a Parenting Plan, which is the agreement regarding timesharing (i.e. custody and visitation), parental responsibility (who makes decisions for the children), and other child related issues, for example transportation for timesharing, contact/communication with the children when with the other parent, and relocation.
As part of the mediation, I’ll prepare the Settlement Agreement for you, reflecting what you agree to in the mediation, and Parenting Plan if there are minor children. Most times I will be preparing the agreements as we are sitting together going through the mediation, and sometimes doing some of the drafting in between mediation sessions when there is more than one meeting.
With some exceptions, it is ok to conduct a mediation session, prepare the Agreements and have everyone sign that day – i.e. get it all done. An important exception to this is if the mediation has been long, it’s generally not appropriate for people to sign an agreement after a “marathon” mediation session.
The approach I recommend is that both of you take time to review the Agreement(s) at home, and also with your attorney if you want, before signing . The decisions you make in mediation are important. There are some defenses to a signed agreement or grounds to set-aside an agreement, but once you sign a Settlement Agreement or Parenting Plan it is a legally enforceable contract. One of the drawbacks, or potential disadvantages to mediation vs. hiring an attorney to handle the case for you, is that mediation could feel rushed – you make decisions quickly. Taking this time to review the agreements helps address that I believe.Getting Your Court Pleadings Prepared
If you’ve reached an agreement in mediation, and the court documents and pleadings will simply incorporate what’s in the Settlement Agreement and Parenting Plan, I can help in preparing for you the pleadings/documents you will need to file with the court. The court forms we will use are the Florida Supreme Court approved forms for divorce and other family law case you can find at www.flcourts.org (there is a link to forms in the middle of that page).The Costs
The fee for Mediation is $300 per hour. We have a two-hour minimum for the first meeting, and the total cost will depend on how much time we need to complete the mediation. There are some suggestions here regarding things you can do to prepare for mediation to keep the costs low. Preparing the pleadings to file with the Court, for example forms called the divorce Petition, Answer and Notice of Related Cases can take some time, and you can save on fees also by preparing these forms yourself if you want – they can be found at the www.flcourts website. Some clients will prepare the pleadings themselves and bring them to the final meeting for me to look over with you. Call and I can try to let you know how long it seems it will take us to mediate your matter.
Call me at (954) 636-7498, or use the contact form on the website, and we can discuss Mediation for your case.