By Orlando Divorce Mediation Attorney Eduardo J. Mejias
Practicing Exclusively Family Law Since 2005
Mediate, Don't Litigate!
I have no qualms locking horns with the opposing counsel at a trial. However, I advise most of my Orlando family law clients to settle their divorce cases at a mediation. Simply put, the trial process is exhausting and uncertain. On the other hand, resolving your disputes at the mediation saves precious financial and emotional resources, and leaves both parties with a sense of investment in the final outcome.
What Exactly Is Mediation?
This is a process where the parties and their attorneys attempt to settle the outstanding issues in their dispute. The mediator acts as an objective and impartial negotiator. He or she will not advocate for one side or make any judgments.
Instead, an effective mediator will process the important facts and legal issues and offer helpful ideas that bridge the differences between the parties. No ethical mediator, however, will exert undue pressure on one side to accept settlement terms. Each side remains completely free to accept or reject settlement offers.
Divorce clients should also realize that nothing that is said during the mediation can be brought up in court proceedings (with a couple of rare exceptions). This rule of confidentiality applies to virtually everything, including admissions of the weaknesses of your positions, as well as rejected settlement offers. Only the agreed-to terms become part of the case file. This confidentiality rule allows parties to negotiate freely without fear of what they say being used against them in court.
Do We Have to Mediate?
My clients often moan about having to attend a mediation. “Why bother?” I’m asked, when we just “know” that we’re not going to agree to anything? First, family law judges always require parties in family law cases to mediate before scheduling a trial. Essentially, an impasse at the mediation is what leads to a trial. Second, after participating in hundreds of mediated divorce cases in the Orlando metro area, particularly in Orange county, I have observed that most litigants are more receptive to settling by the time it takes place. The two to four months that pass between the initial filing and the mediation usually results in a “cooling-off” of the charged emotions that surround the initial filing. Finally, while I do not have an exact percentage available to me, I estimate that 60-70% of my family law cases have settled with the help of a mediator.
How Long Does it Last?
The length of the mediation largely depends on whether it is a court-ordered one, (also known as "public”) or a private one.
If the parties earn less than a combined annual income of $100,000, the family law judge will order them to use a mediator employed by that county. These mediated cases last a maximum of three hours and take place at the courthouse.
Conversely, if the parties’ combined income reaches $100,000.00 they must hire a private mediator and they do not have a time limit. These are usually held at the mediator’s office. The parties can mediate for as many hours as they’re willing to pay for, which leads to the next question.
How Much Does a Mediation Cost?
Again, the answer to this question depends on the parties’ combined income as listed on their financial affidavits. If it is below $50,000, the parties will each pay $60. If their combined income lands between $50,000 and $99,999.99, each party must pay $120. Once their combined income reaches six figures, they must pay the private mediator’s hourly rate. Private mediators in Central Florida charge between $200-$300 per hour. The parties are typically required to split the private mediator’s fee.
In summary, a mediation can, and often does determine the outcome of your case. As your divorce attorney, I will thoroughly prepare you in advance of the mediation. When we sit down at the negotiating table, we will know exactly what our first offer will be, and what our minimally acceptable terms are.
What You Need to Do
If you are about to become involved in a divorce procedure I encourage you to call AAA Family Law at (407) 260-6001 and make an appointment for an initial consultation. See Family Lawyer Retainer Fees.
At the consultation I will listen to your situation, personally answer any questions you may have, outline a plan to achieve your legal objectives and explain what I would do to achieve them. I will also quote your my retainer fee. In almost every case it will be a flat or fixed fee that you will know before signing any contract or making any payments, not an unpredictable hourly rate.
Our attorney retainer fee for divorce cases up to the mediation stage ranges between $2,000 and $3,000 depending on its complexity. An additional retainer amount is set before the trial if the divorce settlement is not achieved during mediation. For an uncontested divorce the fees range from $1,000 to $1,500.
AAA Family Law also provides trial court representation in the Florida Circuit Court of the Orlando Metro area. This includes the counties of Orange, Seminole, Osceola and Lake. Our family law attorney handles appeal cases in all of Florida's District Courts of Appeal.
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