Tag: 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.

meeting

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.

 

Happy “Good Divorce Week”?

Well it is the holiday season. According to the Financial Times, it’s “Good Divorce Week” (that’s really a thing). In Britain the aim is to help resolve a divorce in a constructive way and minimize the impact on children. The idea may work well here too.

Divorce

The Long and Winding Road

For most people — especially those going through a separation — a “good divorce” sounds like an oxymoron. Contentious splits are common, and likely to involve a lot of wasted time, anger and money.

But going to court is not the best way to resolve family issues. Mediation and negotiation can be cheaper, quicker and less stressful.

Increasingly, the collaborative process is becoming more widely requested by clients and helps keep costs and anger down.

Why do people in the UK divorce? According to the article, unreasonable behavior is the most common basis for divorce — accounting for 52% of divorce petitions brought by women, and 37% of those by men. However, research says adultery is the most common reason for divorce, followed by couples growing apart, struggling with money issues, abuse and addiction.

Let it Be: Florida Divorce

I’ve written about divorces before, and the “good divorce” too. Historically in Florida, in order to obtain a divorce, one had to prove the existence of legal grounds such as adultery. This often-required additional expenses on behalf of the aggrieved party, only serving to make the divorce process more expensive and cumbersome than it already was.

Florida Statutes actually still provide that these things may be considered under certain circumstances in the award of alimony, equitable distribution of marital assets and liabilities, and determination of parental responsibility. However, case authority shows little consideration from a legal perspective, relegating them to more of an emotional appeal.

In the years leading up to the enactment of “no-fault” divorce, courts often granted divorces on bases that were easier to prove, the most common being “mental cruelty.”

In Florida, either spouse can file for the dissolution of marriage. You must prove that a marriage exists, one party has been a Florida resident for six months before filing the petition, and the marriage is irretrievably broken.

Back in the UK

Sarah Coles, has been researching the costs of divorce in the UK, and how a good divorce can reduce these. For starters, fighting in court can be expensive, so you need to ask yourself whether you really need to fight over who gets the pots and pans.

Mediation can dramatically cut costs of a divorce. If you have a reasonably good and equal relationship with your ex, this brings you together in a room with a single lawyer to hammer out the details.

To enable this, separating couples need to keep the channels of communication open.

Unsurprisingly, it is the financial settlement that causes huge stress. The article advises couples to decide their priorities when it comes to finances and matters relating to their children.

Remember that a bad credit record can affect you both, and that if you move out of the family home, but are still named on the mortgage, you are still jointly liable for the monthly repayments.

The Financial Times article is here.

 

Child Custody Fight Club

The child custody battle between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie is set to go to a trial next month because the parents can’t agree about the future of their six children after two years of litigating.

Child Custody Fight Club

According to USA Today, the couple could still reach an agreement out of court and put the messy breakup of their family behind them, but lately their ability to see eye-to-eye seems to have deserted them.

The two stars’ legal teams have been in negotiations since September 2016, when Jolie filed for divorce citing irreconcilable differences and “the health of the family” after 12-years together, two of those years in what we later learned wasn’t wedded bliss.

Fury

Their custody dispute comes down to this: She wants sole physical custody of their six kids, ranging in age from 10 to 17; he wants to share physical custody.

According to a document filed Monday in Los Angeles County’s Family Court, Pitt and Jolie have asked for an extension to June 30, 2019, on the appointment of retired Judge as a temporary “private” judge in their case.

He has handled all pre-trial issues and motions and will preside over the custody trial, scheduled for Dec. 4, likely behind closed doors and not at a public courthouse.

Sole Child Custody

The question about an award of sole custody of children frequently comes up and is a matter I’ve written about before. Many people are surprised to learn that the term “custody” is no longer recognized in Florida.

Florida replaced the “custody” term for the “parenting plan” concept in order to avoid labeling parents as “visiting parent” or “primary parent” in the hopes of making child custody issues less controversial.

Under Florida’s parenting plan concept, both parents enjoy shared parental responsibility and a time-sharing schedule. “Shared parental responsibility” means both parents retain full parental rights and responsibilities and have to confer with each other so that major decisions affecting their child are made jointly.

A time-sharing schedule, as the name suggests, is simply a timetable that is included in the parenting plan that specifies the times, including overnights and holidays, that your child spends with each parent.

Florida’s parenting plan concept has changed sole custody into “sole parental responsibility.” The term means that only one parent makes decisions regarding the minor child, as opposed to the shared parental responsibility terms, where both parents make decisions jointly.

How do you get sole custody in Florida?

Sole parental responsibility, or sole custody as people generally call it, has been made more difficult to obtain. Florida’s public policy is for each child to have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after a divorce.

Because of Florida’s public policy, courts order shared parental responsibility unless the court finds that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child.

In those cases where detriment is proved, the court orders sole parental responsibility to one parent, with or without time-sharing with the other parent, if it is in the best interests of the minor child.

World War Z?

The couple have had a bitter divorce that has been frequently in the news. In November 2017, Jolie claimed she and Pitt had reached an interim custody agreement in which she would continue to have sole physical custody of the kids. But Pitt immediately disputed that.

In June 2018, a judge warned Jolie that if she didn’t start encouraging the children to forge relationships with Pitt, she could be in danger of losing custody.

Then in August 2018, a Jolie bombshell: she accused Pitt of not paying “meaningful” child support. Pitt hit back, arguing he’s paid over $1.3m in bills for her and the children.

All of this makes matrimonial lawyers despair:

Do they want their children to say “My mom and dad kept it between themselves and just let us know how much they loved us and always supported our relationship with the other parent, or My mother hated my father and let us all know it?”

The USA Today article is here.