A Guide to Family Mediation and Parenting Coordination in Florida
In Florida, family mediation and parenting coordination are specific processes that parents may encounter during a divorce. Here's a basic overview of what you can expect from both family mediation and parenting coordination in Florida.
Family Mediation in a Divorce in Florida
Mediation is a process designed to help parties discuss and reach resolutions on issues they face and do so outside of a courtroom setting. A mediator is an objective third-party who facilitates an open discussion on crucial issues such as the sharing of parental duties. Let’s explore what mediation can look like for divorcing parents in Florida.
Is Mediation Required in a Florida Divorce?
Mediation during a divorce is not mandatory in all cases under Florida Statute §44.102, the statute that covers court-ordered mediation. That said, if you plan to take your divorce to court, family mediation could still be a required process that you encounter.
Courts across the state often lean on alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes like mediation to help in getting parents to reach agreements on whatever they can before bringing their case before a judge. Family mediation can provide an avenue through which parents can craft their own agreements that work for their situation.
You may enter family mediation at any point of your divorce by either requesting it along with your co-parent or having it ordered by the court. If your case is not contested, and you and your co-parent are able to reach agreements on your own, it's possible that mediation or other ADR process may not end up being required for you at all.
If you do attend mediation, you’ll use that time to discuss any issues involved in your divorce including topics like division of assets and debts, alimony, and more. As a divorcing parent, family mediation will also include working out your parenting plan. It likely involve discussions about parenting time arrangements or a visitation schedule, child support and other parenting costs, health insurance, education, and other parenting-related matters.
All discussions in mediation during a divorce in Florida are confidential. Everything that was discussed during sessions may only be disclosed to you, the other party, and your respective attorneys.
How Much Does Mediation Cost in Florida?
Costs for mediation in a divorce in Florida are based on specific factors. It will depend on whether the mediation services you receive are provided by a court program or a private mediator.
Specifically, §44.108 lays out guidelines for mediation fees for court-ordered mediation services provided by a court program. If your combined income is less than $100,000 per year, you and your co-parent can receive mediation services through a court program at a preset rate.
When mediation is court-ordered, you'll likely receive a list of family mediators under the court’s contract to choose from. You and your co-parent should select a mediator from the list and reach out to them to schedule a session. If you cannot agree on a mediator, the court will assign one for you.
If your combined income is more than $100,000 per year, then you and your co-parent must find a private mediator and handle fees through them. Even in this situation, the fees you pay will be determined before your mediation. Your mediator will draft a written explanation of your fees, as is required by the ethical standards for mediators outlined in Rule 10.380 of the Florida Rules for Certified and Court-Appointed Mediators.
What is Required to Be a Certified Family Mediator in Florida?
General requirements for Florida mediators include that they must be at least 21 years old and of good moral character. Depending on the type of certification that a mediator has, they will also be required to obtain a certain number of “points” which indicate that the mediator has met specific requirements.
According to Attachment A of the mediator certification guide created by the Florida Dispute Resolution Center, family mediators must have at least a bachelor’s degree and have earned 100 points. Of these 100 points, 30 are earned by completing a Florida Supreme Court certified family mediation training program. The rest of the points are earned through mentorship, educational experience, mediation experience, and other miscellaneous options.
If you are seeking a private mediator, you may notice that some are also licensed attorneys. While mediators who are also attorneys may not offer legal advice during the proceedings to parties, their deep knowledge of family law in Florida may come in handy in facilitating in-depth discussions and suggesting workable solutions on disputes over parental duties.
Parenting Coordination in Florida
Parenting coordination is another alternative dispute resolution process that can be very similar to family mediation, yet it often focuses largely on the children and the decisions that will impact their lives directly such as what their daily schedules will look like. Parenting coordination is typically appointed as part of the litigation process. It may even be appointed if family mediation was court-ordered but unsuccessful for the parents.
The Role of Parenting Coordinator
Florida State Statute §61.125 lays out the requirements and guidelines for parenting coordination in Florida. According to this statute, the role of a parenting coordinator is to assist the parties in successfully creating or implementing a parenting plan. They’ll facilitate dispute resolution between parents through offering education and making recommendations. They may even make limited decisions for the parties if the parties and the court have approved this.
One of the biggest differences between family mediation and parenting coordination has much to do with how involved the neutral third-party will be with the parents. Unlike a court-appointed mediator who may only meet with parents once or twice to mediate issues, a parenting coordinator is likely to have much more involvement with the whole family, even going as far as interviewing the children to understand their perspective.
How Are Fees for Parenting Coordination Handled in Florida?
Similar to how fees for court-ordered mediation in Florida are based on state statutes, the court will determine how fees for parenting coordination are allocated between the parties. The statute also states that the court cannot order parties to attend parenting coordination without their consent if it has determined that they do not have the ability to pay for parenting coordination.
If one of the parties is found to be indigent, meaning they do not have enough money to cover even basic necessities, the statute explains that courts will only order parenting coordination if public funds are available to cover the cost of that party’s portion or if the other party agrees to cover the cost entirely.
What Qualifications Must a Parenting Coordinator in Florida Meet?
Parenting coordinators must complete three years of postlicensure or postcertification practice, complete a family mediation training program certified by the Florida Supreme Court, and have completed at least 24 hours of parenting coordination training in concepts and ethics plus 4 hours of training on domestic violence and child abuse.
Also, a parenting coordinator must meet at least one of the following professional requirements: be a licensed mental health professional, be licensed as a physician certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, hold at least a master's degree in a mental health field and be certified as a family law mediator by the Florida Supreme Court, or be a member of The Florida Bar with good standing.
Note: This information is meant to provide a brief, general overview of mediation processes in Florida. Please refer to your attorney or other family law practitioners in your area to provide guidance specific to your case.