Procedures for Mediation in Pasco and Pinellas Counties
The Sixth Judicial Circuit (Pasco and Pinellas Counties) recently released Administrative Order 2011-006 PA/PI-CIR which sets out the following procedures for mediation in family law matters:
a. When ordered by the presiding judge, or when automatically referred to mediation in accordance with this Administrative Order, parties must participate in mediation of family cases.
b. Court-provided mediation will be available in family cases when referred by the presiding judge or automatically referred by this Administrative Order, and the parties combined gross income is less than $100,000. Parties in family cases whose combined gross income is $100,000 or more are not eligible for court-provided mediation, but may still be ordered to mediation, either by the presiding judge or by automatic referral. To determine eligibility for court-provided family mediation and the appropriate amount that each party must pay, each party must submit a current Florida Family Law Financial Affidavit (Family Law Forms 12.902 (b) or 12.902 (c)), an Affidavit of Income for Purposes of Establishing Mediation Fees, or a Financial Affidavit to the Program within ten (10) days of the order of referral. All of the forms may be obtained online at www.jud6.org. A party determined indigent in the present case or in another case in the Sixth Judicial Circuit within the last six months may rely on that determination by notice through letter and a copy of that determination to the Program and other parties.
c. The Program will issue a “Notice of Referral to Mediation” to the parties when court-ordered mediation has not been assigned to a mediator within 20 days of the order of referral. The written Notice will inform the parties that within 10 days of the date of the Notice, each must:
(i) file financial information with the Program to determine eligibility for court-provided mediation, and if eligible, provide the Program with evidence of payment of his or her applicable fee;
(ii) file financial information with the Program to determine eligibility for court-provided mediation and, if not eligible, agree on and select a privately retained mediator and schedule a mediation conference; or
(iii) agree on and select a privately retained mediator and schedule a mediation conference.
If one party has filed financial information with the Program that indicates he or she may be eligible for court-provided mediation, but the other party has not completed any of the above actions within 10 days of the date of the written Notice of Referral to Mediation, the Program will inform the presiding judge of the other party’s failure to cooperate. The presiding judge may set the case for a show-cause hearing or take other action as the presiding judge determines appropriate to facilitate resolution of the case. If no party completes any of the actions in this subparagraph within 10 days of the date of the Notice of Referral to Mediation, the parties will be deemed ineligible for court-provided mediation. At that time, the Program will select a mediator by rotation from the Program’s list of Certified Family mediators. The parties will then compensate the mediator as if the parties had privately retained the mediator.
d. Each party who will participate in court-provided family mediation will pay the following mediation fees:
i. $120.00 per person per session in family mediation when the parties’ combined gross income is $50,000 or more, but less than $100,000 per year; or
ii. $60.00 per person per session in family mediation when the parties’ combined gross income is less than $50,000 per year. Parties who are eligible for court-provided mediation may opt to obtain private mediation, in which case the mediation fees above will not be assessed.
e. In each case referred to court-provided mediation, the Program will monitor payments of mediation fees, scheduling, and completion of mediation.
i. When the parties in a suit have been determined eligible for court-provided mediation and at least one party has paid the required fee or been found indigent, the Program will issue a “Notice of Mediation Conference” informing the parties of the scheduled mediation conference. A non-indigent party who has not paid his or her required mediation fee by the time of a mediation conference will, prior to beginning the mediation conference, execute a form agreement to pay the fee. The mediator will file the form with the report of mediation. The Program will supply such forms to all mediators under contract with the Court.
ii. When parties who are eligible for court-provided mediation have not paid the mediation fees within 20 days of that determination, the Program will issue a “Notice to Comply with Court-Provided Mediation” to the parties, which advises the parties to pay the fee within 10 days of the date of the Notice. If the mediation fees are not paid by at least one of the parties within 10 days, the parties are deemed ineligible for court-provided mediation. At that time, the Program will select a mediator by rotation from the Program’s list of Certified Family mediators. The parties will then compensate the mediator as if the parties had privately retained the mediator.
f. Parties eligible for court-provided mediation who opt for private mediation and parties who are not eligible for court-provided mediation will select and retain their own mediator and hold a mediation conference in accordance with the order of referral. In such cases, the parties must compensate the mediator at the rate agreed to by the mediator and the parties. If the parties do not select their own mediator in accordance with Family Law Rule of Procedure 12.741(b)(6)(A) within 10 days of the order of referral, the Program will select a mediator by rotation, who the parties will then compensate as if the parties had privately retained the mediator. Whether the parties or the Program selects the mediator, in the absence of a written agreement providing for the mediator’s compensation, the parties will pay the mediator at the rate of not more than $150.00 per hour.
g. Automatic referral of family law cases in Pinellas County:
i. In all St. Petersburg and Clearwater family law sections, except as provided herein, all post judgment matters and temporary support matters are automatically referred to mediation. Cases excluded from automatic referral to mediation are those where the Department of Revenue is a party, and any case seeking contempt for failure to pay court-ordered or stipulated child support, or court-ordered or stipulated alimony.
ii. This Administrative Order serves as the Order of Referral for family cases automatically referred to mediation, as if an Order of Referral was entered in each individual case.
iii. Notwithstanding the mediation mandated by this Order, each judge retains the discretion to waive the mandates herein on a case-by-case basis, including those cases where on motion or request of a party or on its own motion, the presiding judge finds that there has been a history of domestic violence that would compromise the mediation process.
h. A “session” for court-provided mediation is one scheduled mediation. The mediator must obtain the written consent of all parties to continue mediation beyond the initial session. Such consent must contain a statement from the parties that they understand an additional mediation fee must be paid by each nonindigent party to the Clerk of the Circuit Court pursuant to section 44.108, Florida Statutes. If the mediator reports an impasse between the parties or recommends another conference, any subsequent mediation conference is another “session” and will require the parties to pay their respective fees prior to mediation.
i. After a case is referred to mediation, counsel of record and pro se litigants must prepare and present any appropriate judgment, order, or notice of dismissal or stipulation of the parties in accordance with the mediated settlement.
If you wish to set up a consultation with a lawyer practicing in Pasco County and Pinellas County, call The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., or fill out our contact form.
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