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Preguntas sobre Mediación

Our goal here is to present some basic information. We cannot offer legal advice. If you have legal questions please consult with an attorney and/or an accountant. Or take a look on-line at Chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes

Frequent Questions about Mediation
Para una versión en español del siguiente texto llame al 786-277-4498


Q: What subjects/topics/issues will be covered during the mediation process?
A: Anything you want to cover.

During mediation you and your spouse will create a Marital Settlement Agreement. This agreement will act as a guide for your family during this time of financial and parenting restructuring and in the future. The mediator will prepare this written agreement and you may then decide to have an attorney review the agreement, or not. Ultimately you and your spouse will sign the agreement and it will be presented to the court, becoming part of your final documents.

Typically, five specific topics are discussed during divorce mediation and then incorporated into the Marital Settlement Agreement. These topics are often presented and explained using the acronym PEACE.

P is for Parenting Issues
E is for Equitable Distribution
A is for Alimony
C is for Child Support, and
E is for Everything Else

P - Parenting Issues. 

This topic is divided into three sections: Parental responsibility, Primary residence, and Time-sharing. Sometimes these issues are referred to as “Child Custody.” We try to avoid the word “custody,” as it fits better in the context of custody of a prisoner or a possession, not a child.

Parental responsibility. Chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes describes two possible parenting arrangements, shared parental responsibility and sole parental responsibility.

Shared parental responsibility is a court-ordered relationship in which both parents retain full parental rights and responsibilities and confer with each other when making major decisions that affect the welfare of their child. Under shared parental responsibility both parents have access to their child’s records and information, such as medical, dental, and school records. The parents may decide that one parent will be responsible for a certain aspect of the child’s life, such as education, and the other parent will be in charge of religion or health, etc.

Sole Parental Responsibility means that one of the parents will have unilateral decision-making authority for the child.

Primary residence. The Primary Residential Parent is the parent that maintains the child’s primary residence. The Primary Residential Parent provides the child with a legal address, which may also be where the child spends the majority of his/her time.

You and your spouse may decide to designate one of you as the primary residential parent and the other as the non-residential parent. Or you may decide that neither of you will be designated as the residential parent. Or you may decide that you will be designated as co-residential parents.

In any event, we encourage parents to work together as equals, in essence to co-parent their children and ensure that the children feel comfortable in both of their homes.

Time sharing. Sometimes time-sharing is called visitation, but that implies that a child visits with his/her parent. Instead we prefer the terms “time-sharing” or “parenting schedule.”
Ideally, you will want to create a parenting schedule that allows each of you some “work” time (homework, doctor’s appointments, transporting the children, etc.) and some “play” time. Your schedule should also address holidays, your special days and needs, and vacations.

You may choose a rotating schedule that has your child living equal times (or close to equal) with each parent. This may mean that the child rotates between the parents every 3 ½ days, every week, two weeks, month, quarter, or year. You may choose a schedule that has the child living with one parent during the week and the other parent on weekends and school vacations. You may choose any variation of schedule. In helping you arrive at a time-sharing schedule, the mediator will encourage you to consider your child’s needs and your family’s special circumstances.

Since its often difficult to schedule weeks or months ahead, you may prefer to simply define your schedule as “open and flexible time-sharing.” However, we will still encourage you to create a back-up plan for your agreement, in the event that a future disagreement or scheduling conflict arises.

Remember, a schedule that works with a two year old may not work with an eight year old. So, it’s important that you are able to alter your time-sharing schedule – which you can readily do, as long as you both agree.

Geographic relocation. Geographic relocation is a common issue in divorce and post-dissolution cases. This issue may be addressed in a couple’s marital settlement agreement or not. Currently, the Florida Statutes addresses relocation in Chapter 61.13001.

Geographic relocation is often a difficult issue for a family to resolve. So, when the residential parent wants to relocate with the children, the non-residential parent often turns to the courts in an attempt to stop the move. A skilled mediator may be able to help a family find a creative solution to their relocation dilemma and enable the parties to avoid a legal battle.

E - Equitable Distribution.

In your Marital Settlement Agreement, the section on equitable distribution addresses how you will divide your stuff.

You and your spouse will decide how to divide your assets and your liabilities. The discussion of your assets will include your home, retirement accounts, bank accounts, possessions, businesses, cars, etc. Your liabilities will include debts – such as your student loans, credit card debts, etc.

FULL financial disclosure is key during this part of the mediation process. In order to negotiate and participate meaningfully in the mediation process both spouses must be aware of what you own, what you owe, what was owned previous to the marriage, and what has been acquired since the marriage. As part of this financial disclosure you will need to fill out a Family Law Financial Affidavit. (If you want to see this form prior to mediation, copies can be found on the FL Supreme Court’s website – www.flcourts.org. Click on “Self Help Center,” go to “Family Law Forms” and scroll down to find both the FAMILY LAW FINANCIAL AFFIDAVIT (SHORT FORM) 12.902(b), which should be used when an individual’s gross income is under $50,000 per year and a FAMILY LAW FINANCIAL AFFIDAVIT 12.902(c) which should be used when an individual’s gross income is $50,000 OR MORE per year.)

The mediator will encourage you to consult with your accountant before you decide how to divide your assets so that you and your spouse can consider future tax liabilities and other concerns.

A - Alimony/Spousal Support

You and your spouse may decide that one of you will pay the other alimony. Alimony payments may be temporary, permanent, or in a lump sum. When discussing this issue the mediator may ask you to consider the needs of the spouse requesting the alimony as well as the ability of the other spouse to pay the alimony. Additionally, you will want to consider things like the standard of living established during your marriage, the length of your marriage, the contributions each of you made to the marriage, your ages, your physical and emotional conditions, and your financial resources.

If you decide on a temporary, “bridge-the-gap,” or rehabilitative alimony plan, you and your spouse will want to consider what circumstances would warrant a change in the plan and/or how long it should take the payee is to acquire sufficient education or training to find appropriate employment or another source of income.

The mediator may encourage you to consult with other professionals before making any decisions about alimony. Alimony payments may be modifiable later on so deciding to pay or receive alimony can have long-term consequences. Additionally, the IRS has rules and regulations that determine whether alimony is tax deductible or taxable so you should consult with your accountant before deciding what to do.

C - Child Support

Your mediator will calculate child support for you using your incomes, the cost of each parent’s health insurance, the cost of your child’s health insurance, the cost of work related child-care, and the number of nights that your child will spend with each parent.

Child support is based on the parents’ net income. Net income is calculated by subtracting Federal, FICA and Medicare taxes; mandatory retirement and union dues; health insurance coverage – for the parent only; alimony; and court ordered child support from prior cases, from the parent’s gross income. The parents’ combined net income and each parent’s percentage share of that income is then calculated. The child support guideline chart provides the minimum amount of child support, using the parent’s combined net monthly income and number of children in the family. Then based on the number of overnights the child spends with each parent child support is calculated.

The calculation of child support is outlined in Florida Statutes 61.30.

E - Everything else

You will be able to include anything else that you think is relevant in this section of your agreement. This may include something related to the dependency exemption for your children, legal expenses, the purchase of life insurance, or visitation with the family dog.

Sometimes before a couple can make the complex decisions necessary for the preparation of their Marital Settlement Agreement and/or move on with their lives, they first need to discuss a variety of emotional issues. This can include:

• Defining and deescalating feelings of betrayal, disappointment and/or abandonment,
• Looking at the reality of their financial situation,
• Venting, letting off steam,
• Laying the cards on the table,
• Confirming that the insanity they are feeling is a normal part of the divorce process.
• Looking at the dynamics of their relationship and how they both played a role in the failed relationship.

As you go through the mediation process you may find it helpful to consult with different financial experts. This can include Forensic CPAs, Tax Attorneys, Business Appraisers/Valuators, Real Estate Appraisers, Antique and Collectible Appraisers, and Financial Planners.

 

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