Court-Ordered Parental Responsibility Mediation in FL

Mediators offer unbiased assistance to resolve disputes. In parental responsibility and time-sharing cases, they help parents come to a settlement agreement in the 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 submit it to the court when they open a case so that it becomes enforceable.

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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 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 mediation conference remains confidential, except when child abuse is suspected.

If you have an attorney, they'll attend conferences with you. Other people, such as a family member or religious adviser, may attend only if both parents agree. Children cannot attend.

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.

Parents with a combined annual income of more than $100,000 must hire a private mediator. Other parents can use court-provided mediation (which is generally cheaper).

Scheduling a conference

The court orders mediation once both parents have filed their initial paperwork. 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 often use a separate room for individual meetings, called caucuses. The mediator can't tell the other parent what you say in a caucus 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 conference. Some judges require multiple conferences (unless parents reach a full agreement sooner).

If parents decide to give up on negotiations, the mediator will declare an impasse on the remaining issues, which will then be decided in a trial.

A mediator can cancel mediation at any moment if they suspect that violence or psychological dominance could prevent one parent from entering into an agreement willingly.

Mediation costs

Fees for court-provided mediation depend on parents' combined annual income.

  • 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 a combined annual income between $50,000 and $100,000 pay $120 each per session.

Parents with a combined annual income 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.


  • Read up on how to negotiate effectively.
  • Prepare notes for what you want to say.
  • Arrive on time and come prepared to pay any fees.
  • Consider the other parent's perspective and anticipate their requests.
  • Take notes so you remember what was said.
  • Stay on topic.
  • Focus on your children's best interests.
  • Comply with mediator requests in a timely manner.


  • 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 children to the conference.

Tools for mediation

If mediation goes well, you could walk out with a parenting plan that will last until your children become adults. Are you ready?

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

Bring a parenting plan and multiple time-sharing schedules to suggest. You might also bring a list of child-related expenses or entries from a parenting journal.

The Custody X Change online 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.

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