Category: Mediation

Family Law Mediation During the Coronavirus

With most of the country in quarantine, many people are discovering that family law courts are open, but mostly for zoom hearings. Now, family law mediation has gone virtual too. Mediations join such other legal proceedings as depositions, motions, hearings, arbitrations as part of the zoom world.

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Mediation During the Quarantine

Mediation is generally a requirement in divorce and family law cases if you want to ever proceed forward with trial. It is customary for parties, their lawyers and experts to meet in-person at the mediator’s office, or one of the law firms involved.

Meeting together is an advantage in that it gets parties and their counsel together with one objective in mind — settle the case. There is an unspoken “dance” that occurs in that parties engage in substantive discussions for a period of time.

Many times, a mediation does not settle until after dinner is ordered. When the mediator is in the other room spending time with one side, the other side is left to talk about the case (or often whatever else is on their minds). There is a lot of downtime.

With social distancing amid the coronavirus, family law cases and divorces have to do their mediations virtually. They have become successful, and perhaps it will have some lasting impacts afterwards.

Florida Family Law Mediations

I’ve written about mediation before. Under Florida law, the parties to a divorce and most other family law cases must attempt to resolve their difference through mediation before their case can proceed to trial. In many cases, mediation can be used earlier in the process to resolve all outstanding disputes before either party has filed for divorce.

In divorce mediation, the parties and their attorneys meet with a neutral mediator – sometimes together, sometimes separately – to try to negotiate a settlement agreement.

Ideally, both the mediator and the attorneys should have enough experience to anticipate what will happen if the case goes to trial. Drawing on that experience, they can help the parties negotiate an agreement without any need to have a judge decide the issues for them.

At mediation, you will discuss issues that are highly personal and emotional, in a confidential setting. Accordingly, there are many factors to think about when choosing the right family mediator.

Tips for A Virtual Mediation

Before starting the mediation is the best opportunity to perform a test run of the zoom app, webex, gotomeeting, google meet, or other apps you have, to test for connectivity issues for your virtual mediation. The mediator should identify the protocol and policies regarding virtual mediation.

Given the complexities of family law cases, it is common to have separate confidential caucus meetings between the mediator and the parties. In some cases, we have meetings with the mediator and the two lawyers and experts in advance of the mediation.

One of the good things about virtual mediations is the lack of having to travel to mediation, park your car, and find restaurants. Because of that, there can be a substantial cost savings associated with virtual mediations.

It is easy to present exhibits and documents in a mediation on zoom. Each attendee has the ability to share their screen to show documents and walk through any presentation.

Usually, the mediator puts each party into a virtual break-out room where the parties wait for the mediator to come to them to talk about their case. There is usually a lot of downtime for the other side at that point.

If you settle your case, the mediator will want everyone to sign an agreement or some type of term sheet of the conditions of settlement. In very complex cases, the mediator may have asked your counsel to make drafts.

How do you sign electronically? In virtual mediations, electronic signatures may be applied to the document through docusign, adobe e-sign or a similar product.

Despite the coronavirus, courts and law offices are open virtually, and cases are being settled at mediation every day.

The National Law Review article is here.

 

Divorce, Paternity & Mediation

A judge has agreed to halt a contested divorce between former Vice President Joe Biden’s son and his estranged wife, ordering them to try at least four hours of mediation.

As the New York Daily News reports, Thursday’s ruling came after lawyers for both Hunter Biden and Kathleen Buhle Biden filed court papers saying they want to end their marriage without continued litigation.

The Bidens recognize the benefit in finalizing their divorce “amicably and privately.”

Last week’s request to put the case on hold came after Kathleen Biden accused Hunter Biden in court documents of squandering their money on drugs, alcohol and prostitutes. Kathleen Biden filed for divorce in December.

I’ve written about mediation and settlement in the past. In Florida, every case of divorce and paternity must attempt to resolve their difference through mediation before their case can proceed to trial, but you don’t have to wait for a court order.

Pre-Suit Mediation

For many clients, especially for high profile clients such as the Bidens, discretion and privacy is very important. Athletes and celebrities, in addition to politicians, have big stake in keeping their divorces out of the news as the New York Daily News article proves.

Why? Often, people are concerned that their financial disclosure, net worth, and details regarding their income will become available to the public through the court files. For businesses, this could even include having sensitive business information available to business competitors.

Also, many people are often concerned about their private affairs being played out in the news or newspapers or elsewhere in public, which could potentially jeopardize careers and social status.

There is also a big cost saving to mediating before filing a family law or divorce action. If both parties can agree to deadlines to exchange their financial documents, and cooperate with children’s issues, thousands of dollars can be saved in a pre-suit settlement.

What is Mediation

In a mediation, the parties and their attorneys meet with a neutral mediator – sometimes together, sometimes separately – to try to negotiate a settlement agreement.

Ideally, both the mediator and the attorneys should have enough experience to anticipate what will happen if the case goes to trial. Drawing on that experience, they can help the parties negotiate an agreement without any need to have a judge decide the issues for them.

At mediation, you will discuss issues that are highly personal and emotional. Accordingly, there are many factors to think about when choosing the right family mediator. Below are a few to think about:

Choosing a Mediator

Trust is the most important consideration in choosing a family law mediator. Your mediator should be someone you feel comfortable with as a person and as a professional.

Specialization is another important criterion. Ask your attorney if the mediator in your case has a practice area dedicated to divorce and family mediation. Family is not an area to dabble in. To be effective in family mediations requires patience as well as skills. Ideally, you want the percentage to be 100%.

Cost is always an important consideration. While it can be expensive to spend the day in mediation, if you’re successful, you are likely to save thousands on your total legal fees.

When comparing mediation fees, base your decision on selecting a mediator with a high success rate for settlements. $200 per hour sounds better than $400 per hour, but not if your $200 mediator spends 8 hours without a resolution, you have not saved anything.

Final Thoughts

Mediation is a great way to resolve your divorce without paying for a full trial. Choosing a mediator is the first step, and may be the most important decision you can reach in your divorce.

The New York Daily News article is here.