I. Why Mediation?
Divorce is one of the most difficult things a person can experience. However, there is no need to make the process more difficult, painful or expensive than it needs to be. If divorcing spouses are able to reach agreements and deal with each other openly and honestly, there is no reason to expend limited financial resources on attorney’s fees and costs. The parties can choose to go through Pre-Suit Mediation in order to enter into a Marital Settlement Agreement which can then be filed with the Court as part of the dissolution of marriage action. Mediation is faster, less adversarial, less expensive, and allows the parties to peacefully move on to the next chapter of their lives.
II. Can we do this Ourselves?
Absolutely! An increasing number of cases, especially in the area of divorce, are being filed by people Pro Se, that is, without using an attorney. Circuit Courts have established Self-Service Centers where Pro Se litigants can purchase forms approved by the Florida Supreme Court with instruction sheets for how to complete them. Attorneys who work in the Self-Service Centers can be hired at a modest price to assist in completing the forms, but those attorneys cannot and will not answer questions or assist in negotiating a Marital Settlement Agreement. They strictly fill out paperwork based on information you provide. The Marital Settlement Agreement is one of the most important contracts you will ever enter into, and few people have the knowledge or experience to complete that Agreement. Using a Florida Supreme Court certified Family Mediator to assist the parties prepare the Agreement can ensure that the Agreement is durable (it will last without requiring the couples to go to court time after time) and it is do-able (the obligations imposed on the parties are reasonably within their abilities to meet).
III. What To Expect From Mediation:
Mediation is a voluntary process in which a mediator, trained in negotiation and facilitation techniques, assists all parties in reaching mutually acceptable agreements. Mediation is distinguished from other forms of dispute resolution, primarily litigation in court and arbitration, in that the mediator does not impose a solution, but rather assists the parties to create their own understanding. Mediated agreements, especially in situations involving families and divorce, often include unique solutions tailored to specific situations that are not available in litigation through the court system.
IV. What To Bring:
In order to have a useful initial meeting, it is essential that each party brings a completed FAMILY LAW FINANCIAL AFFIDAVIT which can be found at the following website: http://www.flcourts.org/gen_public/family/forms_rules/index.shtml
While on the website it is a good idea to review the other forms found at that website to familiarize yourself with the documents which may be required to file and finalize your divorce.
V. Fees and Services:
The initial session includes three (3) hours of mediator time which includes one (1) hour which is set aside for the preparation of the Marital Settlement Agreement. The charge for this first pro-se mediation is a flat fee of $795.00 (i.e. $397.50 per party), unless other arrangements are agreed to by all parties. All mediation fees must be paid in full at the start of the mediation. Checks should be made payable to Matrix Mediation, LLC. For the convenience of all parties, payment may be made by major credit card. In many cases, only the initial session is required to reach all of the terms of a Mediated Settlement Agreement. However, if there are complicated financial negotiations or if there are numerous items which have not been discussed by the parties, additional mediator time may be required in order to bring the matter to a conclusion. If additional time is required, a second two (2) hour session is scheduled. The mediation charge will be a flat fee of $495.00 to be divided by the parties. Any additional hours will be billed at my hourly rate of $275.00, divided by the parties.
VI. Is there anything else required for us to get divorced?
At the conclusion of the mediation, the parties will have a Marital Settlement Agreement which will be filed with the Court. However, that is only one of the documents which is necessary in order to actually get divorced. The party filing the divorce will need to file a Petition, an Affidavit about the children in the case, a Financial Affidavit and other papers. The party who has the case filed against him or her will have to file an Answer and many of the other documents that the Petitioner has to file. Packets of the entire set of papers required to be filed by each party can be purchased at the Self Service Centers located at the Courthouse. The packets include instructions for completing the forms.