The Twelfth Judicial Circuit of Florida (DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota Counties) provides the following FAQs for family mediation:
What is Family Mediation?
Family Mediation is an informal meeting where the parties work out mutually agreeable settlements in Family Court cases. Parties have the opportunity to explore options and negotiate voluntary agreements that may be submitted to the Court for approval.
Family Mediation provides an opportunity for parties involved in family litigation to engage in a facilitated discussion about the specific issues in their case. Counsel for each party may attend the conference. Other third parties may only participate if both sides agree.
What issues can be discussed?
Issues may include but are not limited to: parental responsibility; parenting plans; child support; alimony; property division and debt responsibility. There are no restrictions on the types of issues that can be addressed during mediation, and parties may come to either a partial or full agreement that will satisfy everyone’s concerns.
When will parties go to Family Mediation?
When there is a pending petition or motion, the Court may issue an Order of Referral to the Family Mediation Program. Only cases with a current Order of Referral (not more than 60 days old) are eligible.
Is Family Mediation Confidential?
Communications during the mediation process, other than a signed agreement, are confidential to the extent provided by law and are generally not admissible in court.
What happens at Mediation?
The mediator helps the parties to identify the issues they will address in mediation. The parties then discuss these issues and explore alternatives to solve them. If the parties reach a total or partial agreement, the mediator may prepare a memorandum or a mediation agreement for the parties’ signatures. A signed agreement may then be submitted directly to the court for its review and approval.
What if no agreement is reached?
Mediation often clarifies the issues, even when the parties cannot agree. The mediator will report to the court that no agreement has been reached and that the case requires court resolution.
What are the advantages of participating in Family Mediation?
Mediation brings the parties together in a neutral confidential environment. Mediation provides a forum to identify each party’s needs, interests and issues, foster joint problem solving, and explore settlement alternatives. Mediation encourages the cooperation of all of the parties through a facilitated discussion. Negotiations are conducted primarily by the parties.
Who is the Family Mediator?
Family mediators for the Twelfth Judicial Circuit have taken special training and are certified by the Florida Supreme Court. The mediator is a neutral and impartial facilitator and has no decision-making authority.