What does mediation have to offer in divorce? Privacy, creativity

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If you're going through a divorce in Florida, the judge assigned to your case may urge you -- or require you -- to try to settle your issues of disagreement through mediation before you ask the judge to decide them. The reason is that the Florida courts encourage the use of mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution. Mediation and ADR not only save court time and money, but they can also provide a more positive way forward from divorce.

One of the main reasons is that mediation is typically a friendlier, less adversarial process than courtroom litigation. You and your ex sit down with a mediator, who is a neutral third party. The mediator's job is not to decide who's right or make any decisions for you. Instead, the mediator is there to help you communicate better, organize yourselves, and come up with your own solution to the issues of shared parenting property division and support.

Is mediation actually helpful in property division and support?

If you're familiar with mediation, you may already know that it offers you the opportunity for a more creative outcome than litigation does. Since you're crafting your own resolution, you can essentially agree to anything, as long as it is in the best interest of your children and doesn't violate Florida law. An agreement you reach in mediation needs to be approved by the judge and made into a divorce decree, but otherwise, your agreement can express your needs and desires exactly as you wish.

It's easy to see how that might be useful in deciding on a shared parenting schedule, but many people find mediation especially helpful when it comes to financial and property decisions.

First, mediation is typically far less expensive than litigation, which means you'll be keeping more of the money you already have. Beyond that, one major advantage of mediation is that it takes place privately and does not create a court record. For couples wishing to keep their personal business out of the public eye, mediation can allow the details to be decided outside of the courtroom and away from prying eyes.

More than that, stating a position publicly makes it harder to change. Mediation allows the parties to back off of cemented positions and negotiate fresh. One reason is the confidentiality requirement of mediation. Since nothing you say in mediation can be used as evidence in later court proceedings, you don't have to worry about keeping your cards close to your vest.

Ultimately, mediation offers many benefits beyond lower cost. You can have an attorney assist you during the process -- and you can always go to court if mediation doesn't work for you.

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