FAMILY LAW MEDIATION IN TAMPA BAY

When most people think of divorce, they have in mind a process where they let a judge decide how property is divided, where the kids sleep at night, and how much financial support is paid. But most families would be better off making these types of life-altering decisions on their own, rather than leave them up to an overworked public official. That is why Family Diplomacy offers private alternatives to litigation, including Collaborative Practice and mediation, which can be used in divorce, paternity, and other family law matters.

A VOLUNTARY DIVORCE AND FAMILY LAW PROCESS

Mediation is a voluntary process where you and your spouse meet with a neutral and impartial professional who helps you reach an agreement. The mediator cannot decide issues or impose a settlement; a binding decision will be reached only if both parties agree on its terms. Further, mediation provides you with the flexibility to agree to terms that a judge would never order to meet the particular needs of your family.

Why Trump and Kim Could Use a Mediator

A mediator is not just for divorce.  In fact, there is an organization, Mediators Beyond Borders, which promotes the use of mediators in all sorts of international conflicts.  A representative of the organization has even spoken in front of the United Nations to encourage mediation.

Mediator

Regardless of your perspective on the recent summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, there is one thing that seems clear to me: they could use a mediator.

How Mediators Could Help in International Diplomacy

Here is how a mediator could help:

  • A mediator is a neutral third party who helps people resolve disputes.  Though the first meeting between the national leaders seems to have had a friendly tone, there is no doubt that things will get tough.  In divorce negotiations, discussions can start off easy, but many times they devolve.  A mediator can be there to keep discussions focused on the future rather than past actions and words that caused the dispute.  A good mediator could keep President Trump and Chairman Kim focused on the future. Read more

How Do I Know If My Kids Are OK During My Divorce?

Divorce is not only stressful and life changing for you, but also for your children. As a parent, you want your children to come out of your divorce as unscathed as possible. How do you ensure that happens?

You are likely more emotional and busier than ever during your divorce process.  However, now is the time to stay connected with your children. Spend special time with them doing activities that they enjoy. Check in with their teachers, coaches, and friends to make sure that they are doing okay.

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Mediation Compared to Collaborative Divorce

There has been a growing recognition over the past few decades that courtroom divorce, an adversarial process that pits husband against wife, is a dreadful and harmful method to resolve family disputes.  As a result, the Florida Supreme Court, like many other judicial bodies, declared that family matters needed “a system that provided nonadversarial alternatives and flexibility of alternatives; a system that preserved rather than destroyed family relationships;…and a system that facilitated the process chosen by the parties.”  In re Report of the Family Law Steering Committee, 794 So. 2d 518, 523 (Fla. 2001).

Two alternatives that have developed to fill this space are mediation and collaborative divorce.  As collaborative divorce is a relatively new option, and there exists much confusion – even among experienced family law practitioners – about the differences between these two methods of dispute resolution, this article looks to compare and contrast mediation and collaborative divorce.

Event versus Process

Mediation is generally a one-time meeting where the parties come together, along with a mediator, to attempt to settle disputes.  In Florida, the parties’ attorneys are also in the room, though other jurisdictions exclude attorneys.  The mediator is a neutral actor who does not have the power to force the parties into any type of settlement, but can only encourage them to reach an agreement.  A mediation conference will generally last from 3 to 8 hours or more.  If the parties cannot reach an agreement in that meeting, then they tend to go to court, usually multiple times.

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Mosten: Is Your Divorce Lawyer Informing You?

If you are considering divorce, you likely think that whether you can have an amicable or collaborative divorce depends wholly on your spouse.  Certainly, the attitude and ability of your spouse to compromise has an effect, but in my experience the attorneys that you and your spouse choose has a much bigger impact.

Beginning A Litigation Divorce

If you and your spouse choose attorneys whose primary orientation is litigation, then there is a good chance that you will face a court battle.  Your litigation attorney will likely draft a petition for dissolution of marriage asking for everything, and then have a process server or sheriff’s officer serve your spouse.  These tactics are all intended to intimidate your spouse and get them to submit.

It should be no surprise that this usually elicits the opposite of the intended response.  Not willing to submit, your spouse hires a “bulldog lawyer,” and the battle is on.  Say goodbye to your children’s college saving.  Know that this money will now be going to your lawyers’ children’s college tuition.

Fortunately, there is a different way.

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Co-Mediation And Collaborative Mediation

There are many ways to resolve your divorce issues.  The most well-known option is courtroom divorce.  This is where the spouses spend years battling it out, finding ways to undermine one another.  In the end, a judge tells them who gets what property and where the kids sleep at night.  There is also mediation and collaborative divorce, private forms of dispute resolution.  But two less known methods for resolving your divorce are co-mediation and collaborative mediation.

Co-Mediation

Co-mediation is a way for you and your spouse to resolve disputes outside of court with two or more mediators.  Oftentimes, the mediators have different training and skillsets.  In the co-mediation that Family Diplomacy offers, one co-mediator is an attorney by training.  The other is a therapist or accountant by training.  The co-mediators do not provide legal or financial advice, nor do we engage in therapy.  Rather, in a series of face-to-face meetings, we help develop options that meet your legal, financial, and emotional needs.

Collaborative Mediation

In collaborative mediation, you and your spouse each have your own attorneys.  The attorneys can only represent you in private dispute resolution.  Accordingly, the attorneys spend no time, energy, or money on opposition research, preparing for trial, or encouraging you and your spouse to fight.  The collaborative attorneys provide their clients with legal advice so you can make-well informed decisions.  The neutral mediator or co-mediators help facilitate an agreement and keeps the process moving forward.

You and your spouse have the ultimate say in how you want to use your attorneys in collaborative mediation.  The attorneys can be by your side at each mediation meeting.  Alternatively, the attorneys do not attend mediation but instead provide you with advice outside of meetings or only once the mediator(s) draft up an agreement.  Still, another option is for the attorneys to attend some meetings (like ones focused on financial matters), but not other meetings (i.e., parenting plan discussions).

Co-Mediation and Collaborative Mediation

Co-Mediation and Collaborative MediationRachel Moskowitz, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with whom I frequently co-mediate, recently wrote an article for Commentator Magazine.  The article describes a case study in which we had a co-mediation that turned into a collaborative mediation.  You can find an excerpt of the article below.

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Cordover & Gaies Present on LGBTQ Families & Relationships

On August 11, 2017, psychologist and collaborative facilitator Jeremy Gaies joined collaborative attorney and mediator Adam B. Cordover to present on the topic of “LGBTQ Relationships:  The New Family and Out-of-Court Dispute Resolution.”  Gaies and Cordover facilitated the LGBTQ families workshop at the 25th Annual Conference of Florida’s Dispute Resolution Center.

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Purpose of LGBTQ Families Workshop

The purpose of the workshop was threefold:

  1. Identify specific legal and other considerations for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) individuals and families;
  2. Engage in discussion of various out-of-court options to meet LGBTQ needs; and
  3. Consider new and future legal challenges for LGBTQ clients and the family law community.

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Collaborative Mediation

What is Collaborative Mediation?

If you are getting divorced, you want to move forward as peacefully, quickly, and cost-effectively as possible.  And so you should learn about collaborative mediation.

Mediation

Collaborative mediation is a combination of two forms of private dispute resolution: mediation and collaborative divorce.  In mediation, you meet face-to-face with your spouse along with a neutral mediator (or co-mediators).  The mediator does not decide issues for you.  Rather, the mediator is there to facilitate an agreement between you and your spouse.

What is said during mediation is private and confidential.  This means that statements or offers made in mediation cannot be used against you later in court.  This confidentiality is protected by the Florida Mediation Confidentiality and Privilege Act (Florida Statutes §§ 44.401-44.406).

Though the mediator can help you and your spouse reach an agreement, he or she cannot provide you with legal advice.  The mediator, for example, cannot tell you if you are making a good or bad deal.

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Co-Mediation Divorce Without Lawyers

Can I Divorce Without Lawyers?

Do you want to divorce without lawyers?  Are you and your spouse able to sit down together, but you need some help to figure out what you even need to address?  Are you okay going without legal advice, and you just want to get through the divorce as quickly, painlessly, and cost-effectively as possible?

Well, then, co-mediation can help you divorce without lawyers.

Co-Mediation Divorce Without Lawyers

In co-mediation, you and your spouse sit down face-to-face with two mediators: one with a legal background and one with a child and family dynamics background.

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Woody Mosten and Peacemaking Practice Trainers

Video: Woody Mosten Addresses Association for Conflict Resolution

Forrest (Woody) Mosten has been on the cutting edge of the law since the 1970s.  He has been a pioneer in the fields of unbundled legal services, mediation, and collaborative practice, and he has also authored the following books on these topics (you can order them here):

  • The Complete Guide to Mediation: The Cutting-Edge Approach to Family Law Practice (2d Edition, ABA, 2015) (with Elizabeth Scully)
  • Collaborative Divorce Handbook: Effectively Helping Divorcing Families Without Going to Court (Jossey-Bass, 2009)
  • The Mediation Career Guide (Jossey-Bass, 2001)
  • Unbundling Legal Services (ABA, 2000)

In 2011, Woody keynoted at the Association of Conflict Resolution.  You can find the video from part of the speech below:

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What Is Co-Mediation?

Many people who are getting divorced want to reach an agreement with their spouse, but they need some help to do so.  Though non-adversarial options such as collaborative practice allow those who need more support to each have their own attorney to provide them advice, not everyone wants to be represented by an attorney.

For those people, co-mediation may be a perfect option.  And Family Diplomacy is proud to be one of the leading firms in Tampa Bay to offer co-mediation services.

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