What is mediation?

Mediation is a process for assisted negotiation, problem solving and negotiation.  Typically, the mediation model we use at A Friendly Divorce does not include attorney participation. However, you may stop the process at any time if you wish to consult with or retain an attorney.

Typically, divorce mediation at A Friendly Divorce takes between two and seven hours, depending on the issues and the personalities involved. We mediate some divorces in a single session. And, sometimes the process occurs over time, with a series of face-to-face and telephone sessions.

The desired outcome of the mediation process is a complete Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) which reflects a couple’s future plans for their children and their finances. Following each mediation session our clients receive a draft of their customized agreement. Ultimately, when the Marital Settlement Agreement is complete the mediator reads it with the clients, it is signed and notarized.

In general, mediation is often faster, cheaper, simpler, and more private then other options. Additionally mediation offers participants an opportunity to process their anger, address future events, and create customized resolutions that meets their individual needs.

What does the mediator do?

A mediator is a neutral (as to the participants) and impartial (as to the outcome) facilitator. Mediators have no decision-making authority.  The mediator creates an environment for collaboration, communication, and problem solving; provides analysis, information, and options; and facilitates discussions between the parties in order to help them identify, define, and re-frame their needs and issues.

The mediator may use a combination of joint and individual conferences.  Occasionally the mediator may make suggestions, ultimately however the parties make the final decisions.  Once a resolution is reached the mediator puts the parties’ agreement into writing.

What subjects/topics/issues will be covered during the mediation process?

Anything you both agree needs to be discussed can be discussed in mediation. The mediator will help you create the agenda for your dialogue.  In the case of divorce this agenda should include how you will divide your debts and your financial resources.  If there are children involved a time sharing and decision making plan, as well as the details regarding child support, must be included.

What about all of the other forms the court requires?

Each member of the A Friendly Divorce network offers a one-stop divorce service.  Your mediator will make sure that all of the forms you need, in order to obtain an uncontested divorce, are filled out.  Our standard forms package includes a petition for dissolution, an answer, two financial affidavits, various other paperwork that the court requires, notarizing these forms, and courier service to the Clerk’s Office in order to file the document package.  However, other options also exist.  Talk to your mediator about how his or her services and other options in your community can best meet your needs.

Do I need an attorney to get a divorce?

The majority of our clients do not use attorneys during the divorce process.

We are all aware of the negative consequences of a traditional attorney-driven divorce. However, the traditional attorney-driven divorce model is still the right model for some families. An attorney is necessary when one spouse needs legal protection. So, for example, if one spouse does not know what the marital assets are or how much the other spouse earns, s/he may want an attorney to investigate all of these details before agreeing to any financial arrangements. Additionally, if one spouse feels intimidated as the result of domestic violence or other coercion, negotiating without a lawyer is not a good idea.

At A Friendly Divorce, we cannot offer legal advice, protect either spouse’s legal rights or investigate in order to find hidden assets. If that is what you need you should seek guidance from an experienced attorney. On the other hand, if that is not what you need, you can use our service and supplement the process (if you choose to) by consulting with an attorney or CPA before or during the mediation process so that you can obtain a legal opinion as to your worst and best case scenarios.

We encourage all of our clients to consult with independent legal counsel and an independent CPA prior to signing any documents. Additionally, as you go through the mediation process you may find it helpful to read Chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes and/or consult with other experts such as a Forensic CPA, Tax Attorney, Business Appraiser/Valuator, Real Estate Appraiser, Real Estate Attorney, Antique and Collectible Appraiser, Financial Planner, Child Development Specialist, and/or a Psychologist or other mental health professional.

What is Paternity?

Any woman who is pregnant or has a child, any man who has reason to believe that he is the father of a child, or any child may bring proceedings to determine the paternity of the child when paternity has not been established by law or otherwise. In any proceeding to establish paternity, the court may require that the child, mother, and alleged father(s) submit to scientific tests to show a probability of paternity.  You can learn more by reading Chapter 742, Florida Statutes, Determination of Parentage,http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0742/0742.html.)

Can a Mediator help me in a Paternity case?

When unmarried parents find their relationship is at an end they often need to find parenting solutions for the children that they share.  The issues involved can include legally establishing who is their child’s father, creating a time-sharing schedule, and/or calculating child support payments.  Your mediator can help you and your co-parent reach agreement regarding time sharing with your children, child support, and other expenses.

What is a Modification?

Families grow and change.  As circumstances change, you and your co-parent may need help in adjusting your time-sharing arrangements, parenting plans, child support, and other financial arrangements.  As long as your co-parent is willing to enter into the mediation process with you, a Mediator can help you modify your original plan to reflect your current arrangement or a desired arrangement.  If your co-parent is not willing to enter into the mediation process with you a Judge may order mediation.

Can my co-parent take my kids and move?

The issue of Geographic Relocation is frequently raised during and after divorce.  Your mediator will address this issue with you when you create your Parenting Plan.  If the issue arises subsequent to your divorce, with one parent wanting to relocate with the children, the other parent may turn to the courts in an attempt to stop the move.  Often, a skilled mediator can help a family find a creative solution to their relocation dilemma and enable the parents to avoid a legal battle.  Read more about relocation in the Parenting Plan section (link to the Parenting Plan section under Florida Divorce/Your MSA & Parenting Plan).  Currently, the Florida Statutes addresses relocation in Chapter 61.13001. http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0000-0099/0061/Sections/0061.13001.html

What is Florida’s residency requirement?

To obtain a divorce (also called a dissolution of marriage) in Florida, you or your spouse must have resided in Florida for at least six months before the filing of the petition.

Can I get a Legal Separation?

We do not have legal separation status in Florida. And, there is no separation requirement prior to divorce.

What is a Parenting Coordinator?

A Parenting Coordinator (PC) is a neutral and impartial professional who provides a child-focused dispute resolution process to assist parents in creating or implementing a parenting plan and/or resolving their parenting disputes.  The PC provides education, makes recommendations, and, with the prior approval of the parents and the court, makes limited decisions. Typically parenting coordination is used for high-conflict couples, when on-going issues continue to erupt subsequent to the divorce.

Where can I find Chapter 61?

Chapter 61 is the section of the Florida statutes that governs divorce in Florida. You can read Chapter 61 here http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0000-0099/0061/0061.html.