How does this work?
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 we agree to give the process a chance, your committment is $900.00 payable at that time. 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.
Can it cost more?
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 drawn can cost $500 or more. If there is an estate plan with a trust involved, those documents may need to be modified by an estate planner who will also charge extra. In any event, following the divorce, each party should consider updating his or her will.
Can it cost less?
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.