DIVORCE MEDIATION FAQS

Frequently Asked Questions About Pre-Suit Divorce Mediation in Florida

By: Divorce Attorney Mediator Beth G. Reineke, Tampa, Florida.

What is “pre-suit” divorce mediation?
What does a divorce mediator do?
Why should I choose an attorney to mediate my case?
How does “pre-suit” divorce mediation work?
How long will divorce mediation take?
What does pre-suit divorce mediation cost?
Is pre-suit divorce mediation cheaper than using lawyers to handle my divorce?
Will we have to appear in court if we reach a full settlement?
What if my case is too complex for divorce meditation?
What does it mean when you say divorce mediations are confidential?
Do we need to file for divorce before coming to mediation?
Does the mediator file the case for us and go to the final hearing?
What if we have already filed our divorce case?
If my spouse and I don’t get along, can we still successfully mediate?
Does the mediator meet with both spouses together or separately?
What if one of us lives and works outside of the Tampa Bay Area, can we still mediate?
What if we can’t agree on all issues?
Is pre-suit divorce mediation for everyone?

What is “pre-suit” divorce mediation?

“Pre-suit” divorce mediation is a non-adversarial alternative to divorce litigation. It is a voluntary process chosen by couples who have decided to divorce, but who want to avoid the financial and emotional costs associated with retaining attorneys and litigating their disputes. A couple who chooses pre-suit divorce mediation is choosing to work together with their mediator to resolve all issues related to their divorce and separation.
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What does a divorce mediator do?

A divorce mediator is a neutral third party who has special training to assist divorcing couples in discussing and resolving issues related to their separation and divorce. An attorney mediator has the added advantage of legal training and experience, and when an agreement is reached, Attorney Beth G. Reineke can assist you by drafting your divorce agreement and court documents for filing with the court.
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Why should I choose an attorney to mediate my case?

Attorney Reineke has the training, experience and expertise necessary to not only mediate your case, but to also to draft a custom settlement agreement tailored to your families’ specific needs. Non-attorney mediators typically rely on cookie cutter form agreements or must refer the parties out to attorneys to draft their agreement and court documents.
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How does “pre-suit” divorce mediation work?

During the first mediation session, the couple will meet with Attorney Reineke and discuss the issues related to the parties’ separation and divorce. The parties will determine whether they have enough information in order to settle all relevant issues at that time or whether additional information needs to be obtained before a settlement can be reached. If necessary, additional mediation sessions will be scheduled. If not, Attorney Reineke will take a deposit to draft the parties’ settlement agreement and court documents, and a final mediation session will be scheduled. Once the marital settlement agreement is drafted it will be emailed to both parties for review before their final mediation session. At the final mediation session the parties will review, revise and sign their settlement agreement and court documents.
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How long will divorce mediation take?

Private mediation sessions with unrepresented couples are usually set in 2-3 hour blocks. Most couples resolve their disputes in their first session with the mediator, but some couples require additional mediation sessions to work out their differences. Once a couples’ disputes have been resolved, it usually takes about a week for Attorney Reineke to draft the divorce agreement and return it to the couple for review prior to the final mediation session.
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What does pre-suit divorce mediation cost?

Attorney Reineke charges $250 per hour for pre-suit mediation sessions and for drafting the marital settlement agreement and court documents. The total cost of your mediation will depend on the number of mediation sessions and the complexity of your settlement agreement.
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Is pre-suit divorce mediation cheaper than using lawyers to handle my divorce?

The cost of pre-suit divorce mediation is typically much less than the cost to retain even one attorney for representation. Many lawyers charge a retainer fee of between $2,500 and $5,000 for the average divorce case and bill the client for services hourly at rates greatly in excess of the $250 per hour charged by Attorney Reineke for pre-suit mediation.
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Will we have to appear in court if we reach a full settlement?

In Florida even if the parties reach a full settlement on all issues their court documents and marital settlement agreement must be filed with the court and at least one party must appear before a judge at a short court hearing.
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What if my case is too complex for divorce meditation?

No case is too complicated to be settled using mediation. If there are complex issues which need to be resolved the parties and the mediator may consult with outside experts such as accountants, appraisers, financial planners, psychologists and even attorneys during the process.
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What does is mean when you say divorce mediations are confidential?

Florida law says that no one can disclose what is said at mediation or use what is said at mediation as evidence in court without the consent of both parties. There are only three exceptions to this rule. Allegations of child abuse, allegations of elder abuse and statements of intent to commit a violent crime are not confidential communications and your mediator (just like your doctor or lawyer) is required by law to report these types of statements to the proper authorities.
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Do we need to file for divorce before coming to mediation?

No. You do not need to file for divorce in order to come to mediation if both parties agree to pre-suit divorce mediation. If all of the issues related to your separation and divorce are resolved at mediation, Attorney Reineke will draft your marital settlement agreement for you and all your court documents, and you can then file an uncontested divorce without attorneys.
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Does the mediator file the case for us and go to the final hearing?

No. All mediators are neutral facilitators. According to Florida law they cannot represent either spouse in court, so they cannot file your court documents for you or attend the final hearing with you. However, once a settlement is reached Attorney Reineke will prepare your marital settlement agreement and all the court documents you will need to file with the court. She will help you with your financial affidavit and, if you have children, she will prepare your child support guideline calculations for you. She will explain the court process; she will tell you where to file your paper work; and she will tell you what to expect when you attend the uncontested final hearing. Most final hearings are about 5-10 minutes long and it is not necessary to have an attorney represent you at the final hearing.
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What if we have already filed our divorce case?

Once a divorce case has been filed, mediation can still assist the parties in identifying and resolving their disputes, and mediation is often required before a hearing can be scheduled. Attorney Reineke mediates contested divorce cases involving parties and their attorneys. Different hourly rates apply, and most mediations are scheduled in half or full day increments. If you are represented by an attorney, check with your attorney. If you or your attorney would like to schedule private mediation, please ask them to contact us.
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If my spouse and I don’t get along, can we still successfully mediate?

Yes. Attorney Reineke has been working with divorcing couples for years and she has received special training as a mediator to enable her to assist couples who are emotional but who still want to work out their differences peaceably.
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Does the mediator meet with both spouses together or separately?

Many mediating couples are amicable and work well together in joint mediation sessions. Others are very emotional and cannot negotiate face to face. These couples prefer to work separately with their mediator, and the mediator acts as a go between.
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What if one of us lives and works outside of the Tampa Bay Area, can we still mediate?

Yes. While we strongly encourage clients to find a way to have at least one face to face mediation with the mediator, we realize this is not always possible and mediations can be conducted by video-conferencing or telephone conferencing.
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What if we can’t agree on all issues?

It is rare to agree on all but one or two issues, but if this happens your time in mediation will not have been wasted. A partial agreement can be prepared on all settled issues, and you can either retain attorneys to litigate the remaining issues or take additional time to think about the unsettled issues and come back to mediation.
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Is pre-suit divorce mediation for everyone?

No, pre-suit divorce mediation is not for everyone. Pre-suit divorce mediation presumes that both parties are going to be truthful about their income, assets and liabilities and that both parties have equal bargaining power. If there has been a history of domestic violence, having attorney representation at mediation may be important to equalize the bargaining power of both parties. Similarly, if there are hidden assets or income, on-going waste of assets, or if either party is incurring substantial debts, the protections afforded by legal representation and the court system may be your best option. You should consult with an attorney specializing in family law before coming to mediation if any of these circumstances apply to your situation.
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About the Author

Attorney Beth Reineke is Board Certified Emeritus by the Florida Bar Association in Marital and Family Law and is a Supreme Court Certified Mediator. She has received additional training as an arbitrator and as a parent coordinator for high conflict custody litigation. Attorney Reineke devotes herself full time to mediating and assisting families to resolve their differences without litigation. Arrange a free phone consultation today.

The foregoing article was prepared as a summary and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an experienced family lawyer. If you have questions about your rights and obligations under Florida Law you should consult with an attorney experienced in family law.