In Hillsborough and Pasco County, as in many counties throughout Florida, every couple seeking divorce, child support, or timesharing, is required to mediate before their case will be heard by a judge.
Mediation is a way to negotiate a settlement of your dispute. A mediator is a neutral third party who will listen to and facilitate your discussion. Mediators can be therapists, attorneys, or other trained professionals. Even if the mediator is an attorney, they do not represent any party to the dispute and cannot advise either party about their legal rights. The mediator’s role is not to serve as a judge and decide your dispute, but to facilitate communication so that the two parties can reach an agreement themselves.
Mediation is required in family law disputes, and in many other cases, because it helps keep simple cases with easy resolutions off the docket and helps conserve the court’s time and resources. Judges want to hear only those disputes which involve complex areas of law or fact, or which cannot be easily resolved, and even then would have a very full case load. Many cases are filed with the courts each year, and conserving judicial resources is important to you as a taxpayer. Of course, that’s okay for everyone else’s dispute, but when it comes to your dispute, you may want to just skip over mediation and head straight to the courtroom. I mean, if you could have negotiated, it would have already been done, right? Not always…
Mediation is one more opportunity to avoid the time and expense of trial. Mediation is often the first chance the parties have had to talk after a petition (or complaint in a civil matter) and answer has been filed. By this point, the party’s know each other are serious, and they may know more about what is motivating each side. It is, in fact, a perfect time to go back and look at whether or not a settlement can be reached. Mediating a settlement saves you the time and expense of preparing for trial, and is an important opportunity that should not be overlooked.
Many attorneys with great litigation skills are not good at mediation. They view mediation as an obstacle in their way, an event to quickly dismiss so they can get on to the main show – demonstrating their trial skills. The problem with this view is that it costs you money. An attorney who cannot effectively mediate prolongs your recovery and unnecessarily lengthens your period of tribulation.
Mediation requires more than legal knowledge. It requires sales skills, finesse, and relationship building skills. It requires someone who can focus on their client’s interests, not just their position. It isn’t just sending numbers back and forth, and acting staunch about it. Stonewalling is one technique, but there is such a variety of ways to make someone come around to your way of thinking. If you want to win, you need an attorney that can draw on a full suite of persuasive skills to achieve your objective. As you shop for an attorney, consider those skills you may actually need. Many distressed parties hire a great “litigator” when they really need a good solid negotiator, and its tough to find them both in the same person.
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