Has it come to Divorce? Start with mediation. At the end of the day, courts and judges deal with money and formal procedure. They can't evaluate the emotional importance of what is happening during a divorce. Mediation gives you and your partner an opportunity to work out the details between yourselves with the assistance of the mediator. After many years I believe in patient mediation, call it slow mediation if you will. The decisions you make will affect your life for years to come. If you have children, you will have common interests for the rest of your lives. Trust me, you will enjoy the weddings and grandchildren and all the other joys of life more if you have avoided the pain of a bitter divorce. And, yes, going to court is by definition a fight, and it can quickly get bitter. I want to help you both avoid that if at all possible.
Slow mediation is intended to give both of you the opportunity to think about the decisions you are making, to have a chance to "sleep on it" literally as well as figuratively. We will meet together over a few sessions and between each session you will have the opportunity to speak with whatever advisers you trust to guide you in making a decision. These may be family, friends, a lawyer, a financial planner, or a personal counselor.
Mediation can be a great help if you and your spouse or significant other are facing a divorce or other relationship issue. While I believe strongly in the value of working face to face, there are times when it isn't practical. With the concerns over COVID-19, I am beginning to use tele-conferencing to conduct mediation sessions. This is also a good option for people who are located in different areas of the country and find it a challenge to meet in person. Call the office to discuss arrangements.
You attorney will have mediators with whom they have worked over the years and will guide you in the choice. My "Slow Mediation" approach is more time-consuming, but it is worth considering. Whoever you choose will work with both spouses to reach a good solution.
I believe strongly that every person facing divorce should have the benefit of an attorney, a financial planner, and an emotional health counselor. The mediator, who is committed to being neutral, is not going to fill these roles. I, or any mediator, can give you general advice, but that is all.
It is true that there are situations that do not require all these services. And there are situations in which the parties simply cannot afford the luxury. They may discuss their situations with good advisers and conclude that the benefit does not justify the cost.
For these cases the Florida Supreme Court and the Florida Bar make available self-help forms. As a mediator I can help you come to an agreement on how you will handle parenting and how property is to be divided. Please understand that my services are not a substitute for professional advice where it is needed.
Both spouses meet with me for about 30 minutes to get acquainted and decide whether there is a reasonable chance that mediation may resolve some or all of the issues. There is no charge for this introductory session. If you have an attorney, they may or may not choose to attend.
If we agree to give the process a chance, your commitment is payable at that time based on the price we have agreed on. The process from that point is flexible. We may continue for another couple hours, or agree to meet another day.
In the first two hour session, we try to identify the issues. In the second two hour session, we hope to find solutions to those issues that both parties can accept. At that point I like everybody to go home, cool off and consider the agreements made so far. A divorce is far more serious than buying a washing machine. You will both live with the decisions you make for a long time. It’s important to be sure everyone is comfortable. Hopefully in the third session we will finalize the agreements.
A mediator will not give legal advice. It is sensible for each party to consider having an independent attorney give advice on legal rights. The goal of mediation is to find a solution with which each party will be comfortable. That solution may not reflect the best that a party might be legally entitled to, but separation and divorce are about emotions more than law. If both parties are happy and can live with the agreement, all is well.
The final step is to reduce the agreement to writing, prepare the packet of paperwork required to get through the court system, and make the divorce a reality. The mediator will prepare the documents that reflect the agreement. The Supreme Court has prepared packages of the additional forms that are required and it should be possible for the couple to leave well prepared to complete the formal process of divorce.
Unfortunately yes. Several items can make the divorce cost more. There may be documents required to transfer assets. In general the mediator is not permitted to draft these documents. If one or both of the spouses have a pension, 401(k) or similar asset and you decide to split it, a QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order) has to be drawn up authorizing and directing the fund to make the division. This is not a do it yourself task as every fund manager has a different set of rules and there are various tax ramifications to consider. Having this document properly drawn by an attorney can cost $500 or more. If there is an estate plan with a trust involved, those documents should be reviewed by an estate planning attorney who will also charge extra. In any event, following the divorce, each party should consider updating his or her will.
Happily yes. If both spouses can agree on how to handle the parenting plan, property settlement, and spousal support issues without aid of a mediator, then you can save the mediator's fee. The Florida Supreme Court has approved self-help documents that a divorcing couple can use to apply for a divorce on their own. Google "Florida Family Forms" or "Brevard Clerk Family Forms" and you will find the appropriate web site. If there are no children, look for the forms for Simplified Divorce. Otherwise, look for the packages that relate to uncontested dissolution of marriage. The introductory 30 minute session that I offer is a fine opportunity to see if you can come to a settlement on your own or with minimal guidance.
Please feel free to call and discuss your needs.
Attorney at Law
Certified Family Mediator