Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Frequently Asked Questions for Dependency Court Mediation

Related Information

Frequently Asked Questions about Dependency Court Mediation

QWhat is the Contact Information? 
Mediation/Arbitration Division
Dade County Courthouse, Room 1801
73 West Flagler Street
Miami, Florida 33130
Phone: (305) 349-7328
Fax: (305) 349-7342
QHow does Dependency Mediation help parents and children?
  • Early mediation can help resolve the case more quickly compared to those that proceed through the Dependency Court System until Final Hearing by the judge.
  • Parents can help create a case plan that may enable them to regain custody of their children, rather than leaving it up to the judge to tell them what they must do.
  • Parents and other family members have an opportunity to talk about their concerns confidentially without fear that what they say will be used against them in Court. Note: See Chapter 44, Florida Statutes for exceptions to confidentiality during mediation.
  • A mediated agreement takes into account the family's special needs and builds on their strengths.
  • Parents have a say in what services are needed for the well-being of the family as a whole.
  • Parties involved in a mediated agreement generally work harder for a positive result.
  • Agreements made in mediation may help children find safe, permanent homes in the shortest time possible.
QWho may be present at the Dependency Mediation conference?
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 

All of the Parties who have been court ordered to attend the mediation conference will meet with the mediator in a conference room located in Room 1801 of the Dade County Courthouse. After introductions, the mediator explains how Dependency Mediation works and describes the plan for the conference. The problem solving approach begins as the mediator helps the parties look clearly at the situation and find solutions to their disputes by focusing on the safety and welfare of the children.

The Department of Children and Families presents the allegations of abuse or neglect set forth in their petition to the Court for removal of the children from their parents’ custody. The parents and other parties in the case each have an opportunity to respond to these allegations and talk about their own concerns and viewpoints. The mediator clarifies the disputes between the parties and uses negotiating skills to give parents an opportunity to “self-determine” the outcome of their case. There are times that the mediator speaks to each party privately. These are called “caucuses” and are confidential discussions between the mediator and the individual party.

The following issues may be discussed in order to reach an agreement in the best interest of the children:

  • Case planning
  • Referral to mental health and social services
  • Parent/children disputes
  • Issues relating to the placement of the child, either temporary, foster care, or adoption
  • Termination of parental rights
  • Visitation and support

If an agreement has been reached at the end of the conference, the decisions made are produced in writing, reviewed, signed by the parties and submitted to the judge for approval. Once approved, this becomes a binding Order of the Court and the parties must comply with the terms of the agreement. If mediation comes to an “impasse” in which no agreement is reached, the mediator reports this to the judge without further comment on the case. The case will proceed through the Juvenile Court System and be decided by the judge in a Final Hearing.

QWhat services may be included in the mediation agreement?
Case plans agreed upon in mediation may include the following services:
  • Substance abuse treatment
  • Mental health services
  • Parenting classes
  • Domestic violence/anger control classes
  • Educational services
  • Health care
  • Employment/job counseling
  • Housing assistance
  • Other public assistance for the family The Department of Children and Families is responsible for making these services available to the family, and the parent(s) must follow through with the agreed upon case plans and ensure the services provided are completed to the satisfaction of the Court.
QIs Dependency Mediation confidential?
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?
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?
Yes. Parties have 10 days from the date of the Order of Referral to the Dependency Mediation Unit to agree upon a private mediator and notify the Court’s Mediation Division. You must, however, make certain that the private mediator is certified by the Supreme Court of Florida in Dependency Mediation, unless certification is waived by all of the parties and approved by the judge. Also, the parties are responsible for paying the private mediator’s contracted rate for services. If the parties are unable to agree upon a private mediator within the 10-day time limit, the judge will designate the Court’s in-house Dependency Mediation Unit as the mediator.
QHow much does Dependency Mediation cost?
There is no cost for the Court’s in-house Dependency Mediation services.
QIs it necessary for parents to have an attorney in Dependency Mediation?
No. If you do not have a court-appointed or private attorney to represent you in your case, you may attend the mediation conference alone. Please note, however, that mediators cannot provide legal advice. If you are represented by an attorney, your attorney will receive the Order of Referral and attend the conference with you.
QWhat if an interpreter is needed during Dependency Mediation?
When an interpreter is needed in Dependency 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. If you are represented by an attorney, please consult counsel regarding these arrangements. You may also call (305) 349-7328 if you have any questions regarding interpreter services in Dependency Mediation.
QHow about rescheduling or canceling Dependency Mediation conferences?
You may reschedule your mediation conference only in the case of an emergency and all persons listed on the Referral to the Dependency Mediation Unit must be given notice of the emergency cancellation. Parties are under Court Order to attend 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 Dependency Court case settles before my mediation conference date?
You must notify the Mediation Division that your case has been settled and that mediation is no longer necessary.
QPersons with Disabilities
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)
Back To Top