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Frequently Asked Questions for Circuit 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 can mediation help my case?
A
Mediation:

  • Allows the parties to decide important issues for themselves, rather than having the Court make the decision for them
  • Results in agreements in which parties are more satisfied
  • Results in a fewer number of parties returning to court to change the conditions of their Final Judgment
  • Is highly cost effective and takes less time than going to court
  • Is held in a confidential, non-adversarial setting
  • Allows more time for parties to try and resolve their disputes
  • Avoids the anxiety and other negative aspects of arguing a case in court
  • Fosters future positive relationships between the parties
QWhat to Expect?
AYou and the other parties in your case will sit down together with the mediator in an informal, conference room setting. The mediator will begin by explaining the mediation process and will answer any questions you may have. Each side is given an opportunity to express their concerns and talk about the case from their point of view. During the negotiation process, the mediator helps the parties clarify what the issues are and consider possible ways to resolve their differences so that an agreement can be reached. There may be a time that the mediator speaks to each party privately. These are called “caucuses” and are confidential discussions between the mediator and the individual party. At the end of the mediation conference:

  • The parties may reach an agreement on all of the issues in their case. This is produced in a written document and submitted to the judge for approval. Once the judge approves your agreement, it becomes a binding Order of the Court and your case is officially settled.
  • The parties may come to an agreement on some, but not all, of the issues. This partial agreement is also produced in writing for the judge’s approval and the remaining disputes in your case will be decided by the Court.
  • The parties may not agree on any of the issues, which is called an “impasse”. Your case will proceed through the normal judicial process and be decided by the Court.

QWhat types of cases does the Court’s in-house Mediation Division handle?
A

County Court Mediation

  • Landlord/Tenant cases relating to nonpayment of rent, evictions and other disputes between landlords and their tenants;
  • Small Claims cases for damages of $5,000 or less (excluding Landlord/Tenant cases), such as auto and other negligence, contract and indebtedness, and other claims not exceeding $5,000; and,
  • Other County Civil cases involving claims of $5,001 to $15,000. These cases also involve negligence, contract and indebtedness, and other county civil claims, but the amount of money at issue is greater than Small Claims cases.

Family Mediation

  • Divorce cases (dissolutions of marriage) involving matters such as child support, custody, visitation and parenting plans, as well as spousal support, division of property, assets and debts; and,
  • Post-Judgment Modification matters in which one or both divorced parties return to court to change (modify) the conditions of their Final Judgment. These cases may involve changes in child-related issues as well as modification of financial matters decided upon in the divorce.

Juvenile Dependency Mediation

  • Dependency cases in which parents are charged with the abuse, neglect or abandonment of a minor child.
QHow does my case get referred to mediation?
A
If the judge determines that your case can benefit from mediation, you will receive an Order of Referral to Mediation. Read this Order and any accompanying information carefully for details on the procedures you must follow according to your specific type of case. You have the choice of utilizing the Court’s in-house mediators or hiring a private mediator of your choice within the time limit specified in the Order.

If you have not been court-ordered to our in-house Mediation Division but wish to take advantage of these services, you or your attorney may indicate your desire for referral to mediation in pleadings to the judge, or at one of your scheduled court hearings. It is best to schedule your mediation conference as early as possible to help settle your case and avoid the cost and time of taking you case to Court.
QHow long does in-house mediation take?
A
That depends on the type of case, and the number and complexity of the issues under dispute. Most County Court cases are resolved within an hour. Family Mediation is scheduled in two hour sessions. Three hours are set aside for Juvenile Dependency Mediation, in which multiple parties focus on resolving complex issues surrounding the safety and welfare of abused and neglected children. Additional sessions may be scheduled if your case requires more time and the parties agree to pay the extra cost.
QHow do I become a Certified Civil Process Server with the Court?
A
Qualifications - You must: Be at least 18 years of age. Have no mental or legal disability. Be a permanent resident of the state of Florida. Have no felony convictions. Have no misdemeanor convictions involving moral turpitude or dishonesty within the last 5 years. Pass a background investigation including a review of your criminal record, should one exist. Pass the Certified Civil Process Servers examination. Fee for the exam is $300. Take the Oath of Office administered by a sitting judge. Purchase and renew a $5,000 performance bond each year. Click here to download application materials in pdf format. Applications will be available from Septembert 3, 2012 through October 31, 2012.
You may also pick up an application from Walter Cordle, Jr., Program Coordinator, Room 911, Dade County Courthouse, 8:00 AM until 5:00 PM.
QIs mediation confidential?
A
Yes. Mediation is privileged and confidential, with certain exceptions which are noted in Chapter 44 of the Florida Statutes. One reason why mediation is so successful is that people are able to talk freely about their concerns, understanding that what they say cannot be used against them in court. Your discussions during mediation cannot be divulged to outside parties, including the judge. If you are unable to reach an agreement, the mediator simply reports this to the judge without commenting any further on your case. Judges are not informed of the reasons for an unsuccessful mediation and do not hold this against the parties.
Note: Written agreements produced during mediation are submitted to the judge for approval and become part of the case file. Like most other court documents, these agreements are “of public record” unless otherwise ordered by the judge.
QWhat if I fail to appear?
A
If you fail to appear for court-ordered mediation as scheduled, your case will be referred back to the judge for further action.
QIs it necessary to have an attorney for mediation?
A
If you have not hired an attorney to represent you in your case, you may of course attend the mediation alone. Please note, however, that the mediator cannot provide legal advice. If you are represented by an attorney, your attorney will receive the Order of Referral to Mediation and should also attend the conference with you.
QHow much does mediation cost and where do I pay?
A
County Court Mediation:

  • Residential Landlord/Tenant cases: free of charge
  • Small Claims cases: free of charge
  • Other County Civil cases including Commercial Landlord / Tenant: Will pay the fee of $120 per one-hour session, to be paid equally 50% by the Plaintiff(s) and 50% by the Defendant(s).
  • Juvenile Dependency Mediation: free of charge.
  • Family Mediation : Fees are based on the combined incomes of the divorcing couples. Please click here for specific costs and payment information. You must pay all mediation fees to the Clerk of Court prior to your scheduled conference date or your session will be cancelled and the judge will be notified for further action. Please refer to your Order of Referral to Mediation for detailed payment information.
QWhat if I can’t afford to pay the mediation fees?
A
First of all, the Court’s Residential Landlord/Tenant, Small Claims and Dependency Mediation services are free of charge. Only Family Mediation and Other County Civil Mediation (cases with the letters “CC” in the case number) require fees, at a low cost. If you cannot afford to pay these mediation fees and qualify for indigent status, the Court may waive payment for your court-ordered mediation conference. To qualify for non-payment of mediation fees, each party must obtain an Affidavit of Indigency from the Clerk’s Office. The Mediation Division will then be notified that no payment is required.
QWhat are the mediator’s qualifications?
A
In order to receive court-ordered referrals, a mediator must meet the standards and training necessary for certification by the Supreme Court of Florida. These qualifications are established in Rule 10.100, Florida Rules for Certified and Court-Appointed Mediators.
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)