FL Court-Ordered Parental Responsibility Mediation

Mediators offer unbiased assistance to resolve disputes. In parental responsibility and time-sharing cases, they help parents come to a settlement agreement in their children's best interests.

Florida courts order mediation in all parental responsibility cases that are not already settling and do not involve domestic violence.

Parents can also opt for voluntary mediation before heading to court. If they reach an agreement this way, they then submit it to the court to make it enforceable.

Custody X Change is software that creates parenting plans and schedules to help you prepare for mediation.

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The basics of court-ordered mediation

Mediators are legal or mental health professionals trained in conflict resolution and parental responsibility. They don't give legal advice, provide therapy or make recommendations to the court.

Parents with a combined income of $100,000 or more must hire a private mediator. Parents with a combined annual income below $100,000 can use court-provided mediation or opt to hire a private mediator.

In either case, parents make all decisions together in mediation, unless they agree to give the mediator decision-making power over some or all issues.

Everything that happens in a conference remains confidential, except when child abuse is suspected.

If you have an attorney, they will attend conferences with you and help you prepare. Other people, such as a family member or religious adviser, may attend only if both parents agree. Children may not attend under any circumstances.

If parents only manage to agree on some issues, they submit a partial settlement agreement to the court. Then the other issues are decided through a trial.

Scheduling a conference

The court orders mediation once a contested answer is filed in response to a parental responsibility petition (or counterpetition).

A mediator must then be assigned or selected within 10 days, though extensions are possible.

If parents qualify for court-provided mediation, their court's alternative dispute resolution office will assign a mediator and schedule the conference.

If they're using private mediation, parents select a mediator together. Some private mediators have specialized knowledge and approaches, such as religious or LGBTQ mediation.

Parents usually have to wait two to four months for a court-provided mediation conference, while private mediators typically schedule conferences much sooner.

What happens in mediation

In most counties, parents or their lawyers must provide the mediator with a written summary of the issues at least one week before the first conference.

To begin, everyone gathers in a conference room, where the mediator explains the process. Then, each parent or their lawyer shares their concerns in an opening statement.

From there, the process depends on the mediator, case and county. In addition to meeting with parents together, mediators will often use a separate room for individual meetings, which are called caucuses. The mediator can't share what you say in a caucus with the other parent unless you give permission.

At the end of the conference, which usually lasts two to three hours, the mediator summarizes the discussion and suggests next steps.

If decisions have been made, everyone signs the settlement, which is immediately enforceable but must be filed with the court for approval.

If parents did not reach a complete agreement, they can choose to schedule another mediation conference to discuss remaining items of contention. Some judges may require multiple attempts.

Otherwise, the mediator will declare an impasse on any remaining issues, which will then be decided in a trial.

Mediators can cancel mediation at any time if they suspect that violence or psychological dominance could prevent a parent from willingly entering into an agreement.

Mediation costs

Court-provided mediation has set fees depending on parents' combined annual income, which is calculated in your filing paperwork.

Parents with an income-based fee waiver don't pay anything.

Parents with a combined annual income of $50,000 or less pay $60 each per session. Parents with combined incomes between $50,000 and $100,000 pay $120 each per session.

Parents with combined incomes above $100,000 must hire a private mediator. Fees in Florida range from $150 to $600 per hour, and parents can decide how to split the costs with the mediator's help.

Tips for a successful mediation conference

Your mediation conference is much more likely to result in a settlement if you prepare. If you don't have a lawyer, contact your local legal aid office for advice.

In most counties, both parents must bring copies of their financial and child support paperwork to conferences. You should also bring copies of your proposed parenting plan and multiple options for time-sharing schedules.

Do:
  • Comply with mediator requests in a timely manner
  • Prepare notes for what you want to say
  • Consider the other parent's perspective and anticipate their requests
  • Read up on how to negotiate effectively
  • Arrive on time and come prepared to pay any fees
  • Keep an open mind and trust the process
  • Take notes so you can remember what was said and what you want to say
  • Stay on topic, focusing on the important issues
  • Focus on your children's best interests
Don't:
  • Argue to "win" or treat the process as a trial
  • Interrupt anyone
  • Rehash old disagreements
  • Raise your voice or get angry
  • Speak negatively about the other parent
  • Lie or provide misleading information
  • Bring your child to the conference
Tools for mediation

If mediation goes well, you could walk out with a parenting plan that will last until your child becomes an adult. Are you ready?

Use all the tools at your disposal to get the best outcome for your child.

Bring a parenting plan and multiple time-sharing schedules to suggest. You might also present a calendar showing when you care for your child, a log of interactions with your child or the other parent, a list of child-related expenses you pay and more.

The Custody X Change app enables you to create all these items in one place. Custody X Change makes sure you're prepared not only for mediation, but for every step of your parental responsibility case.

Custody X Change is software that creates parenting plans and schedules to help you prepare for mediation.

Make My Plan Now

Custody X Change is software that creates parenting plans and schedules to help you prepare for mediation.

Make My Plan