Alternative Ways to Decide Parental Responsibility in FL

It's a common misconception that all parental responsibility cases go to trial. In fact, the majority of cases are decided by parents using one of the following dispute resolution methods:

  • Mediation
  • Collaborative law
  • Private judging
  • Informal negotiation

If you're looking to avoid a trial that strains you and your children, consider these alternatives for help reaching a settlement.

Custody X Change is software that creates parenting plans for traditional and alternative methods of deciding custody.

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Mediation is the most common method of alternative dispute resolution. Mediators help parties find common ground and compromise.

Many parents turn voluntarily to a mediator before heading to court. When they reach an agreement, they make it enforceable through a pre-suit settlement, meaning they submit the document to the court at the same time that they open a case.

When mediation is voluntary, parents must agree on their mediator. Some seek out specialized approaches, such as religious or LGBTQ mediation.

Mediation fees in Florida range from $150 to $600 per hour, and parents can decide how to split the costs with the mediator's help.

Parents who open a case without an agreement must attend court-ordered mediation. The process differs slightly: deadlines come into play and mediators are sometimes provided by the court.

Collaborative law

In collaborative law, each parent is represented by a lawyer, but they commit to settle and avoid trial. This is often considered a half-way point between mediation and litigation, or “mediation plus.”

The collaborative law process focuses on effective dispute resolution rather than traditional attorney negotiations. It's more comprehensive than mediation because a team of experts helps parents find solutions and develop a plan for implementing the eventual agreement.

A collaborative team includes each parent's lawyer, a neutral facilitator, a mediator, a parenting coordinator and a financial expert. It may also include child development specialists, mental health professionals and religious advisers.

Everyone involved, including parents, must sign an agreement committing to non-adversarial cooperation, honesty and integrity. If a settlement isn't reached and the case goes to court, the collaborative attorneys must withdraw.

Parents — sometimes together and sometimes separately — meet with the team over six months to a year. Like in mediation, proceedings are confidential.

Often, the process begins before parents open a case, but cases that have already been filed can also use collaborative law.

Private judging

Florida is one of few states that allow private judging in family law cases. Also called voluntary trial resolution or private trial, this option allows parents to hire a retired public judge or experienced lawyer to decide their case.

The private judge holds hearings and issues temporary orders and final judgments that are immediately enforceable. The trial and court process remain the same.

Private judges tend to have flexible schedules, so hiring one can lead to faster case resolution. They can also give more personalized attention to your case.

Private judges typically charge between $500 and $800 per hour, and most require litigants to have lawyers.

In certain circumstances, the law may not permit private judging. Consult with your attorney if you think private judging is an option for you.

Informal negotiation

Parents who can communicate and compromise without professional help may be able to negotiate an agreement on their own.

If parents only manage to reach consensus on certain items, they can hire a lawyer to help them negotiate the unresolved issues (called limited scope representation).

Always have a legal professional review your paperwork before you file.

Preparing for alternative dispute resolution

Preparation is as important when you decide custody through an alternative method as it is when you decide it in a courtroom.

Unless you and the other parent agree on all aspects of parental responsibility and time-sharing, you'll be trying to convince someone, be it the other parent or a private judge.

A parenting plan and schedule are great starts. You may also need to track the time you spend with your child, keep a log about interactions with the other parent, and calculate who pays the child's expenses.

The Custody X Change app enables you to do everything in one place. With a parenting plan template, time-sharing calendars, a journal, an expenses tracker and beyond, Custody X Change makes sure you're prepared for any method of deciding parental responsibility in Florida. It makes sure you're prepared to get what's best for your children.

Custody X Change is software that creates parenting plans for traditional and alternative methods of deciding custody.

Make My Florida Plan Now

Custody X Change is software that creates parenting plans for traditional and alternative methods of deciding custody.

Make My Plan