Family Law Mediation Services

Lori Patton is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator in Longwood, Florida, and an attorney in good standing with the Florida Bar. Currently, she is a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee. However, prior to becoming a trustee, she practiced consumer bankruptcy and divorce (family) law.

Ms. Patton decided to become a certified family mediator so she could help separated, divorcing or divorced couples resolve their disputes through a non-adversarial process. Having spent many years witnessing, first-hand, what the adversarial divorce process can do to families, particularly children caught in the middle of their parents’ disputes, she strongly believes families, especially the children, are much better served when disputes, disagreements and legal issues can be resolved by agreement between the parties through negotiation and mediation, as opposed to litigation.

Mediation is a process in which the parties to a dispute come together and, with the help of a neutral third party (the mediator), strive to negotiate and resolve their issues without involvement of the Court.

In the case of family law mediation, most counties in Florida require couples going through the process of divorce to first attempt to mediate their case with the hope that the parties can settle most, if not all, of their issues without the need for costly, time-consuming litigation.

Family law mediation also may be used as a tool for resolving issues post-divorce, such as child custody modification or child support modification issues.

You do not have to be represented by an attorney to engage in the mediation process. However, you may wish to consult with an attorney about your case prior to mediation, or to bring your lawyer with you to mediation. Although Ms. Patton is an attorney, in her capacity as a mediator, she is not permitted, by law, to give legal advice or counsel to any parties to a mediation. Her job is merely to guide the mediation process, facilitate communication between the parties, and report back to the Court whether an agreement has been reached between the parties.

For more information about mediation, please read the questions and answers below, or contact our office. If you need a mediator in Longwood, FL or any other location throughout Central Florida including Seminole, Orange or Volusia counties, we would like to be of service.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Mediation

What is mediation?

Mediation is an alternative way of resolving a dispute between two parties. Rather than arguing your case before a judge and letting the judge decide your fate, you and the other party to your dispute sit down with a mediator (a third, neutral party whose job it is to facilitate communication between the two disputing parties) and work to come to some agreement with which both parties can live. Mediation allows the parties to be in control of the outcome.

Is the mediator a judge?

No. The mediator is not a judge. The mediator does not have the authority (or the desire) to make decisions regarding the outcome of your dispute. The mediator’s job is merely to manage the process of mediation, facilitate communication between the parties, and make sure everyone (all parties) has an opportunity to be heard. The mediator then will report back to the Court as to whether or not there was a resolution.

Is the mediator a lawyer?

Lori Patton is a Florida licensed lawyer currently practicing law in the area of bankruptcy. However, in her capacity as mediator, Ms. Patton will not be relying on her credentials as a lawyer, nor will she be advising any of the parties of their legal rights or obligations. Ms. Patton may share facts about the law, but she is not there to give legal advice or to represent either or both of the parties. If you need legal counsel or representative, you are encouraged to hire a lawyer and bring that lawyer with you to mediation.

Who can I bring to mediation?

You are permitted to bring your lawyer to mediation. You may invite others to mediation, but only if the other party consents. So, for example, if you want to bring your sister or best friend with you for support, you may do so, but the other party may ask that the person you invited not be allowed in the room while you are mediating. If either party objects to a non-party being present at mediation, then the non-party will be asked to remain in the lobby or to leave.

It is inadvisable to bring children to mediation involving family matters, as adult issues may be discussed which are inappropriate for children to hear. Also, children can be distracting to both the parties and prevent the parties from turning their full attention to the matters at hand. Please arrange child care for your children so that you may fully focus on your issues with the other party.

How should I prepare for mediation?

The mediator does not have any information about your case prior to your arrival at mediation, nor will the mediator keep files or records of any of the materials you bring with you to mediation. The mediator may take notes during your mediation to help in any negotiation between the parties, but these notes will be destroyed as soon as the mediation is concluded.

You should come prepared to discuss all the issues of your case you would like to resolve. You may wish to bring materials and information to which you can refer when stating the facts as you see them. If you have an attorney, your attorney likely will spend some time helping you prepare for mediation.

Who pays for mediation?

The parties are required to share equally in the costs of mediation. The mediator must be paid in full prior to the start of mediation, and if payment has not been made as instructed, the mediation will not occur at the appointed day and time.

The mediator does accept cash, money orders, cashier’s checks, and some credit cards.

How much does mediation cost?

The typical cost of mediation is $250/hour, and the cost is shared equally between the parties.

I've heard mediation is voluntary, but I was ordered by the Court to attend, what gives?

Mediation is a voluntary process. However, you may have been ordered by the Court to attend mediation. Currently, in fact, in many Florida counties, mediation in marital and family disputes, such as divorce or child support modification cases, mediation is mandatory. All that means is that you must schedule mediation, show up at the mediation site on the appointed day and time, and listen attentively while the mediator makes his or her introductory remarks. After you have heard the mediator’s introductory remarks, you may leave at any time knowing you have complied with the Court’s order. However, you are strongly encouraged to stay to at least see if any of the issues between you and the other party can be worked out in mediation.

Unlike Court, where the judge makes the decisions, in mediation, the parties are in control of the outcome of their dispute.

What will we do in mediation?

The parties will discuss the issues of their dispute. The goal is to try to resolve at least one or two, if not all of the issues between the parties. The mediator will work to ensure that each party has an opportunity to present his or her side of the story without interruption, so that everyone is heard. At various times, the mediator, the attorneys and or the parties, may which to have private conversations among themselves. For example, the mediator may wish to meet with only one party and his or her attorney in private. Or one of the parties may wish to confer in private with his or her attorney, and/or with the mediator and the party’s attorney. This private “sidebar” meetings are called caucuses, and all the parties are entitled to them.

As much as possible, the mediator will encourage the parties to stay in the room together so they can freely discuss their issues; however, at times, caucuses may be beneficial, and anyone can request one at any time.

Mediation is a very informal process. Unlike court, there are no witnesses testifying, there is no judge presiding and nobody has to dress up. Everyone is encouraged to speak their minds, but to do so in a respectable manner.

At the end of the mediation, the mediator will file a report with the court merely indicating whether or not there was a resolution in the case. The mediator will not report on any of the facts, issues or laws in the case, nor will the mediator draft an agreement between the parties. Typically, the parties’ attorneys will work together to ensure that all agreements are committed to writing and signed by the parties. If neither party is represented, than the parties will draft their own agreement while in mediation, and sign it. The mediator will ensure both parties are provided a copy of the signed agreement.

Can anything I say in mediation be used against me in Court?

Mediation is a confidential process, and all communication (with a few exceptions under the law) shared within the bounds of the mediation may not be shared with anyone not present at the mediation. No party can use any information or discussion shared in the mediation as a means of influencing the court in the legal proceeding. Also, the mediator cannot be compelled to testify regarding the information he or she learned while conducting a mediation.

The reason for the confidentially part of mediation is so that all parties feel free to discuss their situation, thoughts and feelings openly during the mediation process with the goal of resolution.

It should be noted that the mediator is a mandatory reporter and is bound by law to report a crime, particularly against children or other vulnerable parties (like the elderly) if he or she becomes aware of facts to indicate a crime is being committed.

 

Who makes the decisions in mediation?

The parties, not the mediator, make the decisions during mediation. They can agree or not agree to resolve their issues. Of course, the parties are encouraged to make their own decisions regarding the outcome of their case because once their case is in front of the judge, the judge has the power to determine the outcome.

What will get settled in mediation?

The parties may settle none, one, two, all or anything in between, of their issues during mediation. It is entirely up to the parties.

How long will mediation last?

Mediation typically lasts one and a half to two hours. However, if all involved (including the mediator) agree, it may be extended, or another session may be scheduled. However, the mediator must receive payment prior to scheduling another session, and extended sessions also require immediate payment.

What if I'm afraid of or uncomfortable around the other party.

If it is uncomfortable or a concern for you to be in the same room with the other party, please make us aware of this prior to the day of mediation, so we can make appropriate arrangement. If at any time, however, an issue of discomfort or safety arises, we will adjust accordingly. We want everyone to feel safe and in control. Also, remember, mediation is voluntary and any party can leave at any time after the mediator’s opening remarks.

Schedule an Appointment

If you or your clients have been ordered by the court to attend mediation, or you or your clients are seeking private mediation in a matter such as divorce, separation, child support modification, or child custody dispute, contact our office today to schedule a confidential mediation session.