Divorce mediation is an excellent method of resolving your divorce or family law matter in an amicable and affordable manner. Not only am I a Florida Bar Board Certified divorce lawyer, I am also a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Law mediator and have been since 1999. In Duval County, Jacksonville, Florida; you will be required to attend mediation before the Judge hears your final divorce case, unless you already have a divorce agreement. I have free consultations with many people who have or want to attend mediation as a method of resolving their divorce without divorce lawyers. There are some problems with that method. While it may save money to not have a divorce lawyer with you at your mediation, you must understand that: 1) the mediator cannot be your divorce lawyer and tell you what to ask for or explain the law to you; 2) you have no idea what to ask for or how to ask for it in a way that the Court will approve it; and 3) divorce agreements drafted when people do not have lawyers and by mediators who are not experienced board certified divorce lawyers almost always have problems later. Military divorces and couples with real property or retirement plans are especially susceptible to having their rights crippled by one of these mediations. The last problem is that the mediator cannot represent you at a final hearing before the Judge so you are going to need a divorce lawyer to take you to court anyway. You can do it yourself if you want to use Family Court Services but your divorce will take MUCH longer and you do not get the same treatment or service that you do with a divorce attorney. I meet with many people who have wasted a great deal of money attending one of these "pre-filing" divorce mediations with their spouse to "try and save money and get them to agree without a divorce lawyer" only to find that neither of them understand their rights and one of the parties will not sign the divorce agreement. Meanwhile, the mediator billed you a great deal of money for wasted time and now you have to go and hire an attorney anyway. Why should you or your spouse sign a legal contract that potentially affects the rest of your or your children's lives without the advice of a divorce expert? That seems crazy to me.
Some people will think that the divorce lawyers are just trying to get their money and that they can do it themselves by just buying the "divorce packet" from the Clerk's Office. That may be alright if you do not have any children or joint property. You can also get free forms here. I can tell you that it will cost less to do it right the first time than to hire me to fix a mess later which sometimes I cannot fix because the people wanted to save money and do it themselves. Think you can do it yourself? Ask yourself: "Do Ifully understand":
1) Timesharing the Court will approve and what to include in a parenting plan;
2) How to calculate child support based upon that timesharing, insurance, child care, tax implications, and other incidentals of that support;
3) How to divide a marital home taking into account VA exemptions, whose name is on the deed or note, and how or when the home is sold;
4) How to "correctly" divide retirement and military pensions, determine the marital portion of said retirements, and draft important indemnification, survivor annuity, and distribution clauses [Note: I know divorce lawyers who cannot do this properly]; or
5) How to determine if you should receive or pay alimony and then how much, what type, and for how long.
When I attend mediation with my clients, I give them the benefit of over two decades of full-time divorce law experience and my being a board certified divorce expert to make sure that they understand their rights, that they understand what a Judge may or may not do in their case, and to make sure that their divorce settlement is drafted correctly so that they do not have problems later. Please do not "mess up" your case. Give my office a call for your free consultation so that I can at least tell you what I think that you are entitled to in your divorce case and if you want us to work together and let me help you, we can do that too.