child custody

What is mediation?

“ 'Mediation' means a process whereby a neutral third person called a mediator acts to encourage and facilitate the resolution of a dispute between two or more parties. It is an informal and nonadversarial process with the objective of helping the disputing parties reach a mutually acceptable and voluntary agreement. In mediation, decisionmaking authority rests with the parties. The role of the mediator includes, but is not limited to, assisting the parties in identifying issues, fostering joint problem solving, and exploring settlement alternatives." See Fla. Stat. Sect. 44.1011

Particularly, “ '[f]amily mediation' means mediation of family matters, including married and unmarried persons, before and after judgments involving dissolution of marriage; property division; shared or sole parental responsibility; or child support, custody, and visitation involving emotional or financial considerations not usually present in other circuit civil cases. Negotiations in family mediation are primarily conducted by the parties. Counsel for each party may attend the mediation conference and privately communicate with their clients. However, presence of counsel is not required, and, in the discretion of the mediator, and with the agreement of the parties, mediation may proceed in the absence of counsel unless otherwise ordered by the court." See Fla. Stat. Sect. 44.1011 (d)

In all family matters, the court orders you to participate in mediation. Court mediation is offered for parties earning a combined income of less than $100,000 annual gross income. This mediation is held for 3 hours at a courthouse and depending on the circuit, a contracted attorney and/or mediator or a court-employed mediator acts as mediator. The mediator holds a specific certificate that allows him/her to act in this role. Mediators are not always attorneys and are not always family law, marital law, or Florida attorneys.

Private mediators are often utilized in cases that are high conflict, deal with multiple assets and liabilities, have special considerations regarding parenting, or have parties who earn over the allowable amount for court mediation. These mediations tend to be effective as the parties typically invest their time and money for the purpose of reaching an agreement as to some or all of the issues involved in the case.

This blog post is not intended to provide any legal advice whatsoever. This post does not create a legal relationship between Bouchard Law, P.A. and the reader and is merely intended to provide general information to the reader.

Why your case is probably not an "uncontested" divorce.

I often have folks visit me and state their case is an "uncontested" simplified divorce. I tell them it probably is not.

What exactly qualifies as simplified under Florida law? 

Generally, most divorces are contested one way or other. Simplified divorce involves no children, no alimony or spousal support, and, generally, no conflict whatsoever. The parties go to the Clerk of Court to jointly file the Petition for Simplified Dissolution. Most of these cases do not involve lawyers. Our firm finds that a simplified proceeding is a useful tool when the parties have not been married long and they do not own any assets nor have any joint liabilities (financial debts). The parties are not required to have financial disclosure, but are required to attend a final hearing. The parties also give up their right to a trial and the opportunity to examine/cross-exam the other parties and witnesses.

From the Florida Bar Consumer Pamphlet: Divorce in Florida

Not everyone can use the simplified procedure. Couples can use the simplified dissolution of marriage only if all the following requirements are met: 

· Both parties agree to the use of this form of dissolution proceeding.
· They have no minor (under 18) or dependent children.
· They have no adopted children under the age of 18.
· Neither party is pregnant.
· At least one of the parties has lived in Florida for the past six months.
· The parties have agreed on the division of all of their property (assets) and obligations (debts).
· Neither party is seeking alimony.
· Both parties agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken. 


If you and your spouse cannot meet all of the above requirements, you will have to follow the procedure of the regular dissolution of marriage process.

Where people run into problems when filing a simplified dissolution is when they fail to recognize and address their legal needs and rights thoroughly. For example, parties fail to recognize that pets are considered personal property under Florida law. If the parties do not address who retains the pet upon a simplified dissolution, generally, the pro se (the Clerk-provided, do-it-yourself) marital settlement agreement provides that personal property will stay with the person it is currently with. Then, later on, you'll find yourself in small claims court attempting to resolve the issue of who gets the dog, which should have been resolved via your divorce. Other issues that people fail to address involve changing titles/registrations on vehicles, relinquishing their property rights in homes and land, health insurance/care needs, and other types of support.

If you have questions about your case, give us a call at (941) 764-1146 to schedule a free consultation.