When it comes to resolving family disputes, mediation is more effective thanlitigation. Family mediation can be informal, whereby people hire a friend or relative to help solve an issue, or it can be formal, where a trained professional is hired.
An experienced Mediator:
Knows the topics the court wants the parties to cover
Is familiar with the laws and rules of court that are followed
Has ideas on different ways to approach a problem
Maintains a balanced level of discussion between the parties
Models an objective manner to discuss hot-button topics
Mediation is an excellent approach to solving family conflicts. Mediation is quicker, cheaper and more satisfying than litigation. At Torres Mediation, clients can solve their disputes with the highest levels of professionalism and experience. Kim Torres is a seasoned mediator with over 25 years of experience and served as a former Chair of the Alternate Dispute Resolution Section of the Florida Bar. She specializes in pro se divorce, guardianship, probate issues, and elder care disputes, among others areas of expertise.
Moments of conflicts are tough times where families need an experienced, patient and well-trained facilitator to rise above the storm. At Torres Mediation, families experiencing conflicts can receive guidance and support to make wise decisions without sacrificing the needs of the family members or depleting their finances.
Benefits of mediation over litigation
It takes less time.
The stressed parties maintain control over the final decision
It’s relatively affordable
It results in improved relationships between worrying parties
It’s more effective than litigation.
The chances of obtaining good results are high.
In which situations can family mediation apply?
Mediation becomes advisable when one of the parties involved in the dispute acknowledges that they need the help of a neutral party to resolve the matter and initiates the contact with the mediator. In some cases, where official litigation is pending, the court usually offers or orders the worrying parties to mediation.
Types of Issues to Address:
Timesharing and Visitation
Child Support and Arrears
Custody and Primary Parent
Modification of child support and/or visitation
Holidays and Summer schedule
Alimony and Spousal Support
Marital Home and Equitable share
Distribution of 401K and Retirement Accounts
TSP Distribution and Military Retirement
Surviving Spouse Benefit
Temporary Parenting Plan
Short term Marriage
Disability and Social Security Benefits in Divorce
Foreclosure in Divorce
Choosing a mediator
Unless the mediation is ordered by the court, both parties must be willing to come to mediation to discuss the conflict. Once at mediation, neither party is required to make an agreement, unless he/she wants to. There is no risk to attend mediation and present one’s views.
The basic principle that guides mediation is that a mediator is neutral. The mediator does not make any decision but facilitates the parties through negotiations to reach an agreement at the end. The mediator also helps the parties to clarify issues and develop ideas to resolve them. The mediator is allowed to evaluate the problems within the conflict only at the request of the parties involved. The needs of the parties guide the selection of a mediator and the direction of the discussion.
Other factors that guide the selection of a mediator are Integrity, Neutrality, Experience, Training, and the subject matter of the conflict., A calendar of availability for scheduling can be found HERE (Link)
Preparations for mediations
Do I Need A Lawyer?
Torres Mediation works with lawyers and their clients, as well as people who do not have counsel for their matter. People are encouraged to consult with a lawyer, either before the mediation to be prepared for the issues that will be discussed, or after the mediation when they have a copy of the unsigned agreement to review. The court allows unrepresented people to go through the divorce process and it is not necessary to hire a lawyer if the person is satisfied that he/she is comfortable with the agreement that is reached. A lawyer is recommended if one party does not trust the other party to be honest in representing their finances. A lawyer can require the other party to submit accurate statements for bank accounts, retirement accounts and other assets, if these are not forthcoming otherwise.
Advance Preparation for the Mediation
Prior to attending mediation, the participants should review and be prepared to discuss:
Sample Parenting Plan (found on the internet) and the provisions that are part of it
Completed Financial Affidavits (one for each person – does not need to be notarized)
Review all bank statements, Retirement accounts, Investment accounts and bring statements if there are questions
Pay stubs and be ready to determine exact income if both parties are not in agreement
Fair Market Value of House (CMA or appraisal), and current mortgage balance, if house is to be sold or one person will be buying out the interest of the other in the house
Current value and amount of loans on vehicles
Balances on debts
Mediation is NOT Recommended when:
One person is afraid of the other person
There is a restraining order in place for no contact between the parties, unless both parties are represented by counsel and counsel is present
One person does not feel that negotiations would be on equal footing: One person might not be able to express themselves honestly or negotiate freely with the other person.
The Mediation Process
Free Consultation – Both parties can speak with the Mediator by telephone to understand the process and receive feedback on how to proceed. The Mediator will also discuss fees and types of payment accepted. Once a date has been scheduled for the mediation, the parties will receive a confirmation letter from the mediator with a Financial Affidavit to be completed and brought to the mediation session.
Mediation Session – Mediations are usually held via Zoom conferencing. When the people meet with the mediator, the session is charged by the hour (in quarter hour increments) with a two-hour minimum. Most session last about three hours and there is not usually a second session required. The fee is evenly divided between the participants, unless they’ve agreed to a different arrangement.
Preparation of Settlement Agreement – At the end of the mediation session, the parties will direct the Mediator to prepare a settlement agreement. If the parties are not in agreement, then the mediator does not prepare the agreement and does not charge for the time. A draft of the settlement agreement (either the Parenting Plan, Marital Settlement Agreement, or both) will be sent to the parties via email within two weeks, at an additional charge. Any revisions can be requested to clarify and correct the agreement. The parties have the opportunity to take the draft to an attorney, or financial planner before signing it. A final copy is prepared by the mediator and will be the product for the parties to keep for filing.
Preparation of Documents Package for Filing – As an optional service and for an additional fee, the mediator can prepare the documents that the parties need to file with the court to process the Dissolution of Marriage. There is a separate charge for this service and is strictly for people who have mediated with Torres Mediation. The mediator is not serving in the capacity as legal counsel, or in providing legal advice to the parties. The forms used are the same forms found at the Brevard Clerk of Court’s web site for Pro Se parties in an Uncontested Divorce, or for a Parenting Plan which the parties can complete themselves.
Filing the Documents with the Court – When all the documents have been prepared and executed (including notarization where required), the Petitioning Party will need to file the complete package at the Courthouse. The clerk will assign a judge to the file and should schedule a Hearing with the judge within two-three weeks of filing. The filing fee is $408.
Do We Have to Attend Mediation Together?
Torres Mediation is conducting mediations virtually, if there is no objection by either side. If requested, mediations can take place at the Torres Mediation office. Either party can request to not be in the same conference room as the other party, and both parties can meet with the mediator individually, without the other party present during the session.
Virtual Conferencing for Mediation
Torres Mediation uses Zoom conferencing to conduct mediations virtually. The benefits are:
Easier to find slots for scheduling
Better for transportation issues and arranging for childcare
People are more comfortable in their home environment
Less anxiety due to close proximity with other party
Better control by mediator of hostile interactions
Viable option when parties have a restraining order between them
Payment by credit card, PayPal, Zelle or Venmo is accepted
Downloading an app, or registering through Zoom is NOT required
Participants can use a laptop, tablet or smartphone with the link, or dial in by telephone with the Meeting ID.
In person mediations are still being conducted at the request of the participants. It is recommended that people represented by counsel attend the mediation at the office of their lawyer, through Zoom conferencing, unless other arrangements have been made with their lawyer.
Zoom Tips: To make it more productive, please:
Find a private and quiet place to participate in the mediation
Headphones are suggested
Have access to a printer and scanner to execute an agreement, or be able to virtually sign with a smart phone or tablet through an app.
Allow adequate time for the mediation session to take place
Do not allow third parties to listen in or be present during the mediation
Can I Bring My Mother/Son/Significant Other to the Mediation?
It is not recommended that anyone other than the parties who are part of this legal process be present at the mediation. If either party objects to the presence of another person at the mediation, the decision of the party who is named as a participant in the matter will be respected. If someone wants to include another person, they should ask for permission from the other party. Sometimes a third party is actually a calming influence or is necessary to confirm the financial terms of a resolution. The Mediator always reserves the right to remove a third party if his/her presence becomes detrimental to the process.
How Long Will It Take for the Divorce to be Final?
It takes about 2-3 weeks to schedule the mediation, and then an additional three weeks to prepare the documents and execute them with a notary. Once the complete documents package is filed with the Brevard Clerk of Court, the Final Hearing can take place within three weeks. You will need the Order of Final Judgment from the Court for the Parenting Plan or Dissolution of Marriage to be officially recognized.
Mediation can help nurse the wounds of family conflicts and keep the family bonds intact. Experienced and compassionate experts provide the best mediation services. Visit Torres Mediation for quality guidance and support to help you navigate family conflicts.