Mediation is hands down the best tool for settling the majority of family cases. If you are in a litigated divorce, the Court will require mediation in nearly all cases before you go to court over any meaningful issue. Furthermore, before trial, the court will most likely also require mediation. The reason for this is because the Court knows and the lawyers involved know that mediating, several times in any given case if that is needed, gives families the best chance to control the outcome of their case by settling it themselves.
This is why Tampa Mediations offers private mediation which can be used in divorce, paternity, post judgment matters, and nearly all other family law matters.
What is Mediation
Mediation is a voluntary process where you and your spouse meet with a neutral and impartial professional known as the mediator who helps you reach an agreement. The mediator does not decide issues for you or force a settlement. Nor does the mediator act as an attorney for either or both parties. A binding decision is reached only if both parties agree to its terms. Realize that mediation gives you the room and flexibility to agree to terms outside the law if you so choose and judges are more than likely to uphold those terms because you both have reached agreement on them.
Many people think of mediation as only a one-time opportunity to settle their divorce and that it will be cheap and fairly easy. On occasion, mediation is all those things; however, that is not the norm. In a good amount of cases the spouses’ expectations, emotions, resentments, their attorneys’ personalities, incomplete financial information, or any number of other factors can prevent a single mediation session from bringing about resolution. Then people think mediation failed. WRONG. Every time a couple returns to the mediation table, they are inching toward settlement. Mediation is a process and in most cases a series of meetings, over time, is necessary. Each meeting will help clarify positions, highlight needs that must be addressed, regulate expectations and raise issues. The beautiful thing about mediation is that it is fluid and flexible and “down time” which happens in all cases – litigated or not – is not a time to spend money on needless motions or court filings. It is a time to process information, deal with the fears that are always present in divorce either with the mediator or with outside counseling, and plan plan plan for your future. A mediated divorce does not make people happy. Divorce is not happy and no agreement meets ALL your needs. When done right, a mediated agreement is fair, reasonable and a much better deal than most could get in court.
Mediation with or without attorneys
Mediation can be accomplished with or without attorneys. That means each party may bring an attorney with him/her to each mediation session. Another option is for each party can have a Consulting Attorney in the background. Having been a mediator for some time now, I know many independent and highly qualified attorneys who know my process and are collaboratively trained and who are willing to work with a party in either of these limited capacities. The use of outside counsel as previously described can help one or both spouses to stay reasonable, handle their fears realistically and not overreact and reach a balanced agreement. Keep in mind that mediation can be completed before a formal Petition is filed or after a case has already been initiated.
Mediation is Confidential
Mediation is a confidential process, where with very few exceptions, anything said during the mediation meeting cannot be revealed to anybody else besides your attorney. Nor can anything said during a mediation meeting be used against either party in a later court proceeding.
Mediation Can Include outside experts
Depending on the circumstances of your situation, neutral third party experts may be needed to facilitate settlement. For example, If your divorce involves some complicated financial holdings or assets or debts or tax concerns, it is a good idea to invite a neutral accountant or financial expert to the mediation. Others may have serious time sharing issues where a neutral mental health professional can be helpful to development of an appropriate parenting plan. The experts must be neutral and both parties must agree to the presence of the expert. In my experience I have recommended neutral professionals who came in and helped the parties move past a stumbling block. It is important to remember that mediation gives flexibility to couples to be creative in how they handle setbacks and stumbling blocks. As your mediator, I can help you see options for getting past problems or concerns.
Using Me as your mediator
Mediation is a science and an art. I am convinced that becoming a good mediator is really about experience in the field, experience in life, and a true care and concern for people. I have these three qualities – and continue to develop myself in all of them struggling with trial and error along the way. I have been working exclusively in out of court family work for the last six years which means my mind is not focused on how to win in court but on how to problem solve with my clients. I am approaching my 50th birthday, married for a long time (not without its significant ups and downs), have two teenagers, 3 brothers, one of whom is autistic of which I am his legal guardian, and a mom who needs me and all my brothers. I do volunteer work, love God and grapple with the moral law like all of us.
My mediation process is about fairness and reasonableness. It is important to me to be credible to both of you so that we build trust. That means that any information I provide is accurate and that I follow through on any promises I make to either of you. I am adaptable to situations, very patient, truthful to both of you, and willing to persevere. Both of you must realize this process will take perseverence. There will be roadblocks and I know them well…not all of them…because each case is unique…but you will face them and experience tells me that those who persevere get the results.
I believe in the good of people. I try and access that. Not all people want to be accessed that way. Then I am not your mediator. You both created a family and now you are going to dissolve it. You can’t…not really…your family does not magically go away. So if you are going to go through with divorce, you have to create a new structure that still dignifies the family and those in it. I will talk about alternatives and possible other ways to go than divorce. I will talk about the morality of what is happening and the issues involved and what outcomes you both seek and how they affect the family as a whole. I will not make your decisions for you. I will keep you both reasonable and I will test your expectations. At the end of the day, I will give my experience in life and as an attorney to help you both.
How to begin a mediation process
1. Both you and your spouse meet with me for a consult. My consults are thorough and informative preparing couples extremely well for moving forward both in mediation and in life. Sometimes the consult can be combined with the first session of mediation depending on the complexity of your circumstance.
2. Decide if each of you or both of you would like to have an attorney to help you along with the mediative process. Spouses can either obtain an attorney on their own or obtain a list of attorneys from me.
3. Begin the mediative process with or without help from attorneys.