Family Mediation provides mediation services for litigants in the Family Court System. Cases involving issues of paternity, dissolution of marriage, custody, visitation, child support and asset allocation are handled by Family Mediation. Mediators are available for a set fee to litigants with a combined income of $100,000 or less. A list of private mediators is available for those outside this monetary limitation.
To schedule a mediation in Alachua County, either contact Rebecca MacFarlane, ADR Administrative Assistant at (352) 491-4417 for available times, or contact one of the contract mediators directly. In Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy and Union Counties, please see the Family Court Case Manager for further information or contact a contract mediator for your county.
In accordance with Administrative Order 5.04, any case that involves family matters and issues shall be referred to family mediation unless otherwise excepted by statute, rule or court order. No final hearing will be set in contested cases until the court has received a report from the mediator on the attendance or non-attendance of the parties.
Frequently Asked Questions
Hints to Make Your Mediation Smoother
- Mediation lasts approximately three (3) hours. Arrange someone to care for minor children during the mediation.
- Mediation is for the parties and their attorneys only.
- Other participants and/or observers must be agreed upon by both parties.
- Be on time and be prepared to discuss all issues that remain unsettled.
- File your sworn financial affidavit with the Clerk's Office well before mediation and bring a copy to mediation.
- If there are minor children involved, bring these documents with you to mediation: Proof of income (including disability); Proof of health insurance premium; Proof of day care cost; and a Proposed parenting plan.
- You are strongly encouraged to complete the parenting class before mediation.
- If there are assets and debts to be divided, bring: a list of real property with value/appraisals; a list of all personal property; a list of what personal property you want; a list of what you owned before the marriage; proof of what your retirement is worth; and a list of all the debts at the time of filing.
- If there is a request for alimony, bring proof of income including retirement and disability.
What Kinds of Cases Must Be Mediated?
- Dissolution (divorce) actions, all issues including child support, parental responsibility, distribution of real and personal property, alimony, etc.
- Changes in child support
- Changes in parental responsibility (custody and visitation)
- Paternity actions
Can I Mediate If I Don't Have a Pending Case?
Only cases in which a petition has been filed are subject to the mandatory mediation rule and eligible to use the court mediation program; however, other cases/issues may be mediated at any time by a privately retained mediator with agreement of both parties.
Who Qualifies For The Court-Based Program?
Parties with a combined gross annual income less than $100,000 may utilize the court-based program. Gross income means your total income before any deductions are taken. If the parties have a combined gross annual income more than $100,000, the parties must schedule mediation with a private mediator and the cost of the private mediation will be borne by the parties.
What Is The Cost To Parties Utilizing The Court-Based Program?
In accordance with Section 44.108 of the Florida Statutes, parties utilizing the court-based family mediation program are assessed fees for mediation as follows: (a) One hundred twenty dollars per person per scheduled session when parties' combined income is greater than $50,000, but less than $100,000 per year; (b) Sixty dollars per person per scheduled session when the parties' combined income is less than $50,000. A typical mediation session runs from two to three hours. All fees must be paid at the Clerk of Court's Office prior to the start of the mediation.
Any rescheduling to accommodate a party's or an attorney's schedule must take place by mutual consent, however, parties will be charged for that session as well as any rescheduled session(s).
What If My Case Doesn't Qualify For The Court-Based Program?
Parties whose combined gross income exceeds $100,000 per year or who do not have a petition filed will need to hire a private mediator. A list of certified family mediators practicing in the Eighth Judicial Circuit is available here.
How Long Does Mediation Take?
The typical mediation takes one session of three hours. If the parties reach an agreement, the mediator then prepares the written agreement to be signed by all parties at the conclusion of the mediation. You should set aside a minimum of three hours for the mediation.
What Is The Role Of The Mediator?
The mediator acts as a facilitator to encourage discussion and joint problem solving between the parties. The mediator assists the parties in sorting out the issues and separating the needs of the parties from the needs of the children. The mediator also assists the parties in exploring alternatives for settlement. Except for written agreements that are signed by all parties, the mediator keeps confidential the contents of the mediation session. The mediator prepares the mediation agreement for submittal to the court.
What Are the Benefits of Mediation?
- Quicker resolution
- More options are available to the parties than a court can order
- Reduces hostility and trauma to parties and their children
- May lower attorneys fees and costs
- Gives parties control over the outcome
What Are The Limits Of Mediation?
- The mediator does not determine who is right and who is wrong
- The mediator does not decide the case
- The mediator does not make decisions for you
- The mediator does not give you legal advice
- The mediator does not provide counseling for the participants. Parties desiring counseling are urged to seek assistance from community agencies, clergy, or private providers
Who Serves As A Mediator?
Experienced mediators certified by the Supreme Court of Florida conduct mediations scheduled through the Family Mediation Program. In Alachua County, staff mediators conduct most mediations, though other mediators may be substituted depending on the staff mediators' availability. In the Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy, and Union counties, contract mediators conduct the program mediations.
Can I Bring My Attorney?
Parties represented by attorneys are encouraged but not required to have their attorneys attend the mediation. If you are represented by an attorney who does not attend the mediation, any agreement you reach will be provided to your attorney for review and held by the mediator for ten days before submitting it to the court. During that time, you may have your attorney review the agreement and advise you.
Who Will Be Present For The Mediation?
- The mediator
- The parties
- Their lawyers, if any (optional attendance)
- The guardian ad litem, if appointed (optional attendance)
- At times a mediator trainee may participate in the session
No other persons, including current spouses and other family members, may be present without the permission of the mediator and the agreement of ALL the participants.
What Do I Need To Bring With Me?
- The completed information sheets mailed to you by the Family Mediation Program (including financial eligibility form)
- Proof of all income (financial affidavit, pay stubs, tax returns, letter from your employer, etc.) if financial matters are at issue
- Any documents you wish to discuss at the mediation session
- Receipt from the Clerk of Court showing payment for the mediation session