How does divorce mediation work? What should you expect during the mediation process? We explain it all so you can be prepared.

Going through a divorce is never easy, and there are a lot of different things you need to know as you navigate the process.

Divorce mediation offers a way to make the entire procedure more streamlined, but you should still be aware of the mediation process and how it works.

Read on to learn more about this important step so you can be prepared for whatever comes next.

What is Divorce Mediation and How Can it Help?

In some cases, a divorce can be handled outside of the courtroom. The mediation process involves both parties, their respective lawyers, and a professional third-party mediator.

This option is usually much faster than a traditional divorce, and it’s also a lot less expensive than the usual court trial or dealing with several hearings. In fact, mediation works for many couples who are separating and don’t have a lot of assets or issues with custody to contend with.

One great benefit to divorce mediation is that it can usually settle all of your issues in one session. This eliminates the need for several court dates and tons of arguing back and forth. Another perk is that mediation is completely confidential and there is no public record kept of what goes on during the private sessions.

When you participate in mediation, you have more opportunity to express what you expect from the divorce and what you consider to be fair. In a courtroom, you won’t have much choice since the process is much more rigid and impersonal for your unique situation.

Choosing to use mediation doesn’t mean that you cannot use a lawyer. In fact, many people still enlist the help of an attorney as they go through the mediation process. For many, mediation allows for better communication and less stress which can help to reduce or even eliminate any conflict in the future.

When to Skip the Mediation Process

Opting to use mediation is certainly something that is worth trying for many couples, however it’s not for everyone. There are some cases where you will need the help of the court system to complete your divorce.

Spouses who are victims of domestic violence should consider going to court instead of mediation. This will ensure that the law is enforced and that the victim’s rights are protected as per a judge’s ruling. There could also be potential for violence if you choose to participate in a mediation setting rather than a courtroom.

Another example where mediation may not be best is if you’re in the middle of a serious custody battle. A mediator may not have the ability or the authority to determine a final ruling on custody situations.

If you’re ever in doubt about the terms of your divorce, talk to a professional divorce attorney. They can help you decide whether or not the mediation process will work or if you should take your case directly to court instead. You can still use mediation later if there are still any unresolved issues in the divorce.

For those couples who don’t predict many issues throughout the divorce proceedings, mediation has many benefits. However, if you’re concerned about your safety, the custody of your children, or the splitting of assets, consider a court trial instead.

How Mediation Works

If both sides agree to mediation, you should receive a phone call from a professional mediator. This is the first step in the process. The mediator will ask you for more details and background information regarding your marriage, your family, and any issues you are having.

Most mediators will start by asking for basic information, while other mediators could decide to gather as much detailed information as possible before the mediation date. Don’t hold anything back and always give them your honest, detailed answers whenever possible.

After the phone call, the first meeting will be scheduled. These meetings are usually held in an office or conference room setting at the mediator’s place of business.

The mediator will go over the entire process with you and what you can expect. Sometimes everyone will be in the same room the whole time, while at other times you could be separated at different points so you can speak in private.

You will probably be asked to sign an agreement that states you will keep everything confidential. The mediator cannot disclose what happens during mediation if you decide to take your divorce to court at a later date. A good mediator will do his or her best to ensure that both parties are calm and comfortable throughout the process.

A lawyer is not required to participate in mediation. However, if you are concerned that you will have difficulty speaking or making your point clearly, they can be an excellent asset who can speak on your behalf.

Navigating the Agreement

Once the mediator has gone over everything with you, you’ll be able to make a statement about your situation. Your spouse will also do the same thing. Remember to try and keep your statement short and to the point.

Next, the mediator will ask some questions if they need clarification or some more information. They may also read the statements back to you just to ensure that you’ve both said what you wanted to and that you understand the talking points.

After the statements, the mediator will determine which points you both agree on, and which are areas of contention. Once you have an idea of what you want to achieve, you will all work toward a path that determines how to accomplish your goals.

If there are custody or property issues, the mediator will probably need more information from both of you. You may need to state the current value of your home or talk about any pending issues with your children that could come up in the mediation later.

Remember to be clear and concise and state what your ultimate goals are for the divorce negotiations. If important information cannot be provided at the first session, you might need to return for another one. Try to have everything you need with you the first time to avoid a second or third mediation.

The Negotiation Process

After statements have been made and all information has been gathered, the mediator will likely start with the simplest issues first. These easy questions and problems will help to build trust and make everyone feel more comfortable when difficult conversations begin.

When you start the negotiations, remember that this is a process and that nothing is final just yet. Stay on top of the facts and don’t get discouraged until the entire process is over and a verdict has been decided.

Negotiation can be a tricky skill to master, so don’t worry if you feel like you are not getting the results you want right away. It’s the mediator’s job to find out exactly what both of you want and how you can agree on a path to getting it. They should help you both brainstorm a few options that you might not have thought of before.

Do your best to express your opinion without getting too personal or name-calling. Make your position clear and talk about why your position and your desired outcome is so important to you and your well-being.

Onew ay to assure success is to be open to compromise. It’s highly unlikely that both of you will get exactly what you want unless the other person completely concedes. Always listen and try your best to understand your spouse’s point of view without talking over them.

When you both enter the mediation process with a spirit of openness and understanding, the odds are that you’ll walk away with a satisfactory resolution. Compromising means that both of your best interests are being taken into account. Never argue during the mediation and simply express your concerns if you are unhappy with the proposed terms.

Taking the Pain Out of Divorce

While there is never a guarantee that this method will be completely successful, the mediation process can make divorce much easier for both of you. Consider mediation if you want a quicker divorce, less cost, and a peaceful method that doesn’t involve the court system.

If you need some help or you’re concerned about making your presentation, consider a divorce attorney who can attend the mediation with you and speak on your behalf. This process should give you the outcome you want with less stress.

For all your family’s legal needs, be sure to visit our website and contact us today for more information.

If you’re going through a child custody battle, you may have heard about third party custody. We explain what it is and what parents need to know about it.

There are times when a parent or both parents can’t take care of their child anymore. It can happen for a variety of different reasons, which range from tragic when the cause is due to neglect or abuse to sad when a single parent is no longer able to take care of their child. This may be due to a single parent becoming incarcerated.

It can also happen when a parent has mental health or physical reasons they can no longer take care of their child. That’s when a third-party custody arrangement is often sought. Most people don’t know about third party custody unless they one day need it and by then, it’s like trying to catch up with a moving train to take it all in through digestible legal learning chunks.

Read on if you’re involved in a third-party child custody battle or you think one may be happening soon. The informational guide below will explain what third party custody is and how it works, who it affects and how it impacts your life.

What is Third Party Custody?

Florida family law states a non-parent can be given custody of a child through a number of legal channels. There are legal standards and criteria that must be met for all non-parent custody petitions in Florida. A few examples when third party custody can be filed are:

  1. A third party can be given custody if a biological parent provides voluntary consent by signing a document terminating their parental rights. The document enables the court to turn the child over to another family member. Most of the time, if a biological parent is giving another family member custody of their child, a legal advocate will help them go through the legal process.
  2. There are times when a child’s well-being is at risk when they are in the care of their biological parent or parents. A concerned family member can file a third-party petition for concurrent or temporary custody. The third-party petition is filed in the Unified Family Court.
    • If the biological parents don’t consent to this custody arrangement, the family member seeking custody must meet a high standard of proof in court to show the parents to be unfit to care for the child.

In summary, Florida family law allows for a third party relative to petition the court for custody under special circumstances if it’s in the best interest of the child. There are special circumstances and times when the court awards permanent custody of the child to a third party like a child’s grandparents.

The Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act

Florida law states that the courts decide child custody based on the best interests of the child. The best interest of the child has criteria listed under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The UCCJEA is a national set of laws that governs child custody throughout the country.

Child custody is defined as having legal and physical custody, and as such parents with custody are allowed to make decisions about their child’s education, religion, medical care, where they live and discipline. If parents are unable to agree on these decisions, the court can intervene but third-party custody is a much tougher legal bar to reach to get successfully adjudicated in court. Third-party custody can be filed for when a child’s well-being is at risk when they are in the care of their biological parent or parents.

Florida Courts Define Child Custody Terms

If you live in Florida, its the judges who get to decide who gets legal custody, physical custody, joint custody, or third party custody. Judges also determine parental responsibilities and this is when third-party custody comes into play if it’s needed. Third-party custody always takes into consideration several factors.

Of course, the primary and most important consideration a judge considers is what’s in the best interest of the child. It can be helpful if the child is older and can relay their wishes or if the biological parent petitions the court for a third-party custodian for their child. The judge will also take into consideration the best interests of the child based on the relationship the child has with the third party.

Third-Party Custody Rights

If you don’t have the consent of the parents, you must factually represent what has happened to the child who has been abandoned, abused, or neglected by the parent or parents. The definition of abandoned, abused and neglected are found in Florida Statutes Section 39.01. The State of Florida will always defer to the custodial relationship with the parents in a custody situation if its healthy, safe, and if the parent or parents want it.

If you are awarded third party custody rights as a non-parental relative, you’ve already presented a compelling case regarding why you should be awarded custody. But even if you were granted child custody as a non-parental relative those custody rights are granted in temporary form only most of the time. The Supreme Court determined temporary custody for non-parental relatives in Florida through the 2012 Florida case of Slover v. Meyer. 

Florida Case of Slover v. Meyer

The Florida custody dispute of Slover v. Meyer originated between a father’s natural father and the child’s maternal grandparents. The child’s mother was deceased and the child’s maternal grandparents were seeking custody over the father because they felt he was unfit to care for the child due to his history of drug abuse. Evidence was given to the court that proved the father did have a drug abuse problem however the father testified he was seeking drug treatment to help him with his addiction.

The court took the father’s willingness to seek drug abuse treatment into consideration but still awarded temporary custody of the child to the grandparents. But the court also gave the father supervised visitation rights for the next year. If the father could keep up his abstinence from drugs and continue treatment, the father would be allowed unsupervised access to his child.

Over the next year, the father proved to the court he had conquered his addiction and was able to care for his child. At that time, the court modified the custody arrangement and the father’s custody rights were restored. Third-party custody with a non-parental relative is usually temporary in Florida unless there is a compelling, legal reason to give it permanent standing in the court.

Typical Third Party Custody Family Law Form 12.970 (a)

The typical third party custody agreement application starts with you filing the Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.970 (a) Petition for Temporary Custody by Extended Family. The third-party custody agreement form is what’s needed when you wish to obtain temporary custody of a child or children pursuant to Chapter 751, Florida Statutes. You are considered an extended family member if you are:

  • A relative of a minor child within the third degree to the parent by blood or marriage
  • The stepparent of a minor child if the stepparent is currently married to the parent of the child and isn’t a party to any pending dissolution, separate maintenance, domestic violence, or any other civil or criminal court proceeding. This civil or criminal court proceeding cannot be of a competent jurisdiction involving one or both of the child’s parents as an adverse party.
  • You can file for temporary custody if you have a signed and notarized consent of the child’s legal parent or parents.

You can also file if you’re an extended family member who is caring full time for the child in the role of substitute parent with whom the child has been living for some time and where the child is currently living. If the parent or parents don’t give you consent, you’re going to need a family law attorney to help you fill out the agreement and file the forms in the appropriate court.

Third-Party Guardianship

You can find more information about Florida’s third-party guardianship in Chapter 744, Florida Statutes. The court rules that the relationships between the court, the minor, the guardian, and others have statutes and rules that describe the specific duties and obligations as guardians. These statutes and rules are in place to help protect the best interest of the minor.

The guardian serves as a surrogate decision-maker that’s appointed by the court to make either personal or financial decisions for the minor or even for an adult if they have mental or physical disabilities. After the court adjudicates the case, the guardianship is termed a ‘ward.’

Your Next Step

Your next step may be your most important one if you are seeking third party custody. There’s nothing easy about this court process and you need to be prepared for everything while hoping for the best. Child custody is emotionally stressful no matter the circumstances but if you’re involved in third party custody issues, need the best counsel a family law attorney can give you.

Reach out to The Law Office of Erin Morse so the child that needs you doesn’t lose one more day to uncertainty and fear. No child should ever be left in an unsafe or unknown home. With the help of the Law Office of Erin Morse, you’ll come to know this law office serves as one of the child’s most fierce child advocates and they won’t stop until the child is safe and in a healthy environment.