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Frequently Asked Questions about Family Court Mediation


QContact Information
A
Mediation/Arbitration Division
Dade County Courthouse, Room 1801
73 West Flagler Street
Miami, Florida 33130
Phone: (305) 349-7328
Fax: (305) 349-7342
QHow will mediation help me in my Family Court case?
          • Children don't have to take sides and can avoid getting "caught in the middle".
          • Parents may learn how to improve communication and negotiation skills, making it easier to settle future disputes.
          • A mediated agreement takes into account the family's special needs.
          • Divorcing couples are often better able to accept and respect a mediated agreement that they have worked out together.
          • Mediation is quick and can save substantial time and money compared to cases that proceed through the Family Court system until Final Hearing by the judge.
          • Mediation is confidential, unlike most court proceedings which are of public record.
QWhat to Expect
AThe mediator specially trained in Dependency Mediation, who acts as a guide to help the parties reach an agreement in the best interest of the children;
 
  • The parent or parents who are charged with allegations of abuse, neglect or abandonment, and attorney(s), if represented;
  • The Department of Children and Families’ (DCF) caseworker and attorney;
  • The children’s parent(s) not charged with abuse or neglect and attorney(s), if represented;
  • A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) appointed by the Court to advocate for the best interest of the children. The Guardian ad Litem Program attorney may also be present; and,
  • The children’s custodian responsible for their care when they are removed from their parents’ custody, and the custodian’s attorney, if represented. A custodian could be a family member, foster care provider or other person approved by the Court. The following persons may also be present, provided that the principal parties in the case – the parents and the Department of Children and Families – agree to their participation in the mediation conference:
  • Relatives of the children, including the children’s grandparents or other family members; and
  • Professionals and other individuals such as therapists, teachers, the clergy or other persons in support of the parents and/or the children, who can help the parties make informed decisions.
All parties named on the Order of Referral to the Dependency Mediation Unit must attend the mediation conference.
QWhat to Expect 
A

Family Court parties ordered by the judge to attend Family Mediation will meet together with the mediator and their attorneys, if represented, to discuss and try to settle issues which may include:

  • Time-sharing, Co-parenting and Child support
  • Paternity issues
  • Parental responsibility - who will make the day-to-day decisions about the children's lives
  • How the marital property, assets and debts will be divided between the parties
  • Issues regarding spousal support (alimony)

Each party will be allowed to explain their side of the case and their views on how they would like the issues resolved. Through the negotiation process, the mediator works with the parties to find common ground and suggest possible solutions to their differences. The mediator may also meet with each party separately and confidentially in what is known as a “caucus”.

The issues agreed upon are produced in writing, reviewed, signed by the parties and submitted to the judge for approval. If no agreement is reached, the case will be decided by the judge. Discussions during mediation are considered confidential and cannot be used against you in court, with certain exceptions noted in Chapter 44 of the Florida Statutes.

QHow do I get referred to Family Mediation?
A
If the judge determines that your case can benefit from Family Mediation, you will receive an Order of Referral to Mediation (Family Division). If you have not been court-ordered to mediation, but wish to take advantage of the Court’s in-house Family Mediation services, you or your attorney may indicate your desire for mediation in pleadings to the judge or at one of your scheduled court hearings. It is best to mediate as early as possible to help settle your case, save time and money, and avoid the conflict of processing your case through Family Court.
QIs Dependency Mediation confidential?
A
Discussions during Dependency Mediation are privileged and confidential, and cannot be used against you in Court, with certain exceptions noted in Chapter 44 of the Florida Statutes.
QHow do I get referred to the Court’s in-house Dependency Mediation Unit?
A
If the judge determines that your case can benefit from mediation, you will receive a Referral to the Dependency Mediation Unit. All parties named on the Order must attend the conference on the date and time specified. If you have not been court ordered to mediation but wish to take advantage of our in-house Dependency Mediation services, you or your attorney, if represented, may indicate your desire for mediation in pleadings to the judge or at one of your scheduled court hearings.
QMay I hire a private mediator instead?
A
Yes. Parties have 15 days from the date of their Order of Referral to Mediation (Family Division) to agree upon a private mediator and notify the Mediation Division. If the parties are unable to agree upon a private mediator, the judge will designate the Court’s Mediation Division as the mediator in the case. Your Order of Referral provides detailed information on the proper procedures.
QHow much does Family Mediation cost and how do I pay?
A
  • The cost of the Court’s Family Mediation services is divided equally between the parties (unless otherwise ordered by the judge or agreed upon by the parties) and is determined by their combined incomes, as follows:
  • Combined incomes of 50,000 or less per year, unless the parties are determined to be indigent: $60 per person for each two hour session.
  • Combined incomes greater than $50,000 but less than $100,000 per year unless the parties are determined to be indigent: $120 per person for each two hour session.
  • Parties with combined incomes greater than $100,000 per year are not eligible for services provided by the Court’s Family Mediation Division. Divorcing couples in this income category who wish to mediate their case may hire a private mediator. All fees must be paid in person to:
    Clerk of the Court,
    Lawson E. Thomas Courthouse Center
    175 N.W. 1st Avenue, First Floor
    Miami, Florida 33128.
Mediation will be cancelled if you do not bring your receipt of payment with you to your mediation conference. Note: The Court’s Family Mediation services are free of charge for indigent parties. To qualify for indigent status, each party must complete an Affidavit of Indigency from the Clerk’s Office.
QIs it necessary to have an attorney for my Family Mediation conference?
A
No. If you have not hired an attorney to represent you in your case, you may attend the mediation conference alone. However, please note that mediators cannot provide legal advice. If you are represented by an attorney, your attorney will receive the Order of Referral to Mediation and attend the conference with you.
QWhat if an interpreter is needed during Family Mediation?
A
When an interpreter is needed in Family Mediation, the judge decides whether the Court or the parties will pay for this service. A free interpreter may be assigned only if the judge determines that the parties are indigent and cannot afford the fee. Otherwise, you must bring a certified interpreter with you. Family members or friends are not allowed to interpret during mediation.
QHow do I reschedule my Family Mediation conference?
A
You may reschedule your mediation conference only in the case of an emergency and the other side must be given notice of the emergency cancellation. Parties are under Court Order to attend mediation and if they fail to appear on the scheduled date without good cause, the case will be referred to the judge for further action.
QWhat if my Family Court case settles before my mediation conference date?
A
You must notify the Mediation Division that your case has been settled and that mediation is no longer necessary.
QPersons with Disabilities
A
If you need assistance to participate in a court proceeding, program or service, please contact the ADA Coordinator, at:

(305) 349-7175 (Voice mail)
(305) 349-7174 (TDD)
(305) 349-7355 (Fax)
(800) 955-8770 (Florida Relay Service)