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How Can I Win Court-Ordered Mediation?

You filed your case; now what’s next? If you are litigating a divorce or paternity action, chances are you will be sent to mediation by your judge. Florida law allows the court to refer cases to mediation when parental responsibility, primary residence, visitation, or support of a child are contested. Mediation is your chance to, together with your ex, take control of the litigation process before the judge makes his or her final decision at trial. For a primer on the difference between mediation and litigation check out this bartender’s explanation. For a checklist on how to win your mediation, read on:

  • Forget about winning. No one “wins” mediation. Mediation works best when two people can sit at a table, put aside the events that caused their break-up, and focus on coming to an agreement with which they both can live.
  • Prepare ahead of time. If you are divorcing, make a list of any assets you have and to whom they should belong. Assets may include a house, cars, retirement accounts, and the wedding china. Also make a list of your debts and try to approximate your total debt. Debts may include a mortgage, 401k loans, credit cards, and that down payment your mother-in-law made on your house.
  • Put your children first. If children are involved, take time to think about their routines and traditions and how you can best preserve those while living in two separate households. The Florida Courts Website has a form parenting plan that you may wish to print and fill out as a starting point for mediation. Think carefully about things that are important to you and to your children, and things you can let go of. For example, perhaps July 4th is really important to your family, but your ex’s family really does it up big for Thanksgiving. You’ve celebrated the 4th with your family and Thanksgiving with theirs each year. Consider letting your children spend Thanksgiving with your ex each year so that they can continue to participate in those traditions. Maybe then, your ex would more easily agree to letting the children spend July 4th with you each year.
  • Be upfront about the money. If finances are at issue, such as alimony or child support, print out your most recent tax return, your last six paystubs, and any proof of health insurance or childcare you pay and bring these with you to mediation.
  • Be honest with yourself. Try to summarize your goals for mediation. Perhaps you want to settle the whole case. Or perhaps there are one or two issues you would like to focus on. You will have a chance to share your goals with the mediator at the outset of mediation, and being clear allows the mediator to steer the conversation in the most productive way.
  • Keep the new partner at home. If there is contention about a new relationship, refrain from bringing that person to mediation. While you may feel the need for moral support, this can be accomplished via text message. During mediation, the goal is diffuse emotions, not escalate conflict. If you would like to bring a relative or close friend, consider asking your ex if they mind. Someone who knows you both and can remain level-headed may be a valuable resource.
  • Take a breather. During mediation, if you need a moment to clear your head or to diffuse the situation, ask for a break. If you would like to speak to the mediator privately, ask for a caucus.
  • Decide when to walk away. While the best outcome would be to have a full agreement, sometimes things are just too emotional or trust is too far broken to work it out without the direction of a judge. Decide on your “deal-breakers” and jot them down ahead of time. This is something to share with your mediator at the appropriate time.
  • Consider consulting a lawyer. Even if you filed this case on your own, consider hiring a lawyer to attend mediation with you. Neutral third parties have a way of steering you away from the petty issues and focusing on resolving the bigger issues. Contact an experienced Dadvocacy attorney to discuss your upcoming mediation at (305) 363-6171.