“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 hassle and financial and emotional costs associated with Court litigation. A couple who chooses pre-suit mediation is choosing to work together with their divorce mediator to resolve all issues related to their divorce.
What does a divorce mediator actually do?
A divorce mediator is a neutral third party who has special training to assist divorcing couples in resolving issues related to their divorce. An attorney mediator has the added advantage of legal training and Courtroom experience, and when an agreement is reached Attorney Leininger can assist you by drafting your Marital Settlement Agreement and court documents for filing with the court.
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 experienced Family Law attorney before beginning divorce mediation if any of these circumstances apply to your case.
Why should I choose an attorney rather than a social worker or accountant to mediate my case?
Attorney Leininger has the training and expertise necessary to not only mediate your case, but to also to draft a customized Marital Settlement Agreement. If the mediator is not an attorney, they usually use basic form agreements or must refer the parties out to attorneys to draft their Marital Settlement Agreement.
Do we have to have our own attorneys to mediate our divorce with Mr. Leininger?
No, neither you nor your spouse need to hire an attorney before starting pre-suit mediation with Mr. Leininger. However Mr. Leininger urges all his mediation clients to have the final Marital Settlement Agreement reviewed by an attorney before they sign it. Since the Marital Settlement Agreement may be the most important legal document you sign in your lifetime, doesn’t it make sense to spend a few hundred dollars to have the Agreement reviewed by a Family Law attorney before signing?
How does “pre-suit” divorce mediation work?
During the first mediation session, the couple will meet with Mr. Leininger and discuss the issues related to the parties’ separation and divorce. The parties will determine whether they have sufficient 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. For example, there may be a need to have a real estate appraisal performed, or a pension evaluated, or a professional practiced valued. Additional mediation sessions will be scheduled until all issues have been resolved by the parties. Attorney Leininger will then draft the parties’ Marital Settlement Agreement, Parenting Plan and Child Support Guidelines Worksheet if there are minor children, and a final mediation session will be scheduled. Once the Marital Settlement Agreement, Parenting Plan and Child Support Worksheet are drafted it will be sent to both parties for review before their final mediation session. Mr. Leininger strongly urges all parties to have an experienced Family Law attorney review the proposed Marital Settlement Agreement. At the final mediation session the parties will review, revise and sign their Settlement Agreement. In addition, Mr. Leininger can prepare all the Florida Divorce documents (not including the Marital Settlement Agreement or Financial Affidavits or Child Support Worksheet) for filing by one of the parties in Court for a flat fee of only $599, if there are no children or $799 if there are any children under 18 years of age.
How long will divorce mediation take?
Private mediation sessions with are usually set for either 60 minute or 90 minute sessions. Some couples will resolve their disputes in two or three sessions with the mediator, but other couples will require additional mediation sessions to work out all their issues.
What does pre-suit divorce mediation cost?
The total cost of your mediation will depend on the number of mediation sessions and the complexity of your Settlement Agreement. A mediation involving 5 million dollars of assets will usually cost more than a mediation involving $500,000 of assets. Most middle class couples will spend between $2,000 and $4,500 total for both parties. If there are serious custody issues, or a business or professional practice is involved or if there are substantial pensions, stock options, etc., the mediation will cost more.
Is pre-suit divorce mediation cheaper than using divorce lawyers to handle my divorce?
The cost of pre-suit divorce mediation is usually much cheaper than the cost to retain two divorce attorneys who will litigate the divorce in Court. Many lawyers charge an initial retainer fee of between $5,000 and $10,000 for a divorce case involving a million dollars or more in assets, and bill the client for potentially many thousands of dollars of additional legal fees.
Are some divorce cases simply too complicated for divorce meditation?
No case is too complicated to be resolved by mediation. We routinely retain real estate appraisers, pension appraisers, business valuation experts, professional practice evaluation experts, etc. during the mediation process.
Are divorce mediations in Florida really 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 is required by law to report these types of statements to the proper authorities.
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 divorce are resolved at mediation, Attorney Leininger will draft your Marital Settlement Agreement for you and one spouse can then file uncontested divorce without attorneys.
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 Leininger will prepare your Marital Settlement Agreement so that one spouse can file the court documents you will need to file with the court.
If my spouse and I don’t get along, can we still successfully mediate?
Yes. Attorney Leininger has been working with divorcing couples for 20 years and he has received special training as a divorce mediator to enable him to assist couples who are upset but who still want to work out their differences without Court litigation.
Does the mediator meet with both spouses together or separately?
Many mediating couples are friendly and can work well together in joint mediation sessions. Others are very emotional and confrontational. These latter couples prefer to meet separately with their mediator, and the mediator meets with each party separately.
We can mediate with spouses located anywhere in the world via videoconference!
If Divorce Mediation sounds like a better alternative than expensive and emotionally damaging litigation in court, why not call our office at (941) 727-5555 and schedule a Free initial videoconference for you and your spouse which will last approximately 30 minutes, at which all of your questions will be answered.
Mr. Leininger will never pressure you and your spouse to decide immediately to retain him as mediator. Rather, he will urge the two of you to think it over! He serves the Greater Sarasota area, including Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties.
The Law Offices of William J. Leininger 677 N. Washington Blvd. Sarasota, FL 34236 941-727-5555 FLORIDA@SILAW.COM