Sherrard Law Group

Ten Reasons to Mediate Your Divorce and/or Family Disputes

Mediation is a confidential process for resolving conflict and reaching an agreement. A neutral mediator assists parties in arriving at a mutually acceptable agreement. In contrast to an adversarial proceeding, mediation emphasizes cooperative problem solving and addressing the needs of all parties involved. Mediation can be used for all types of conflict; however, it is particularly useful in the context of divorce. Divorce is never easy, but with the help of a qualified mediator, like John Edgar Sherrard of the Sherrard Law Group, there is a high likelihood that you will settle your divorce issues amicably. Let’s take a look at the top 10 reasons why you should mediate your divorce:

1) Mediation Lets You Control the Outcome.

Why let a Judge decide what’s best for you or your children? Litigation leaves you in a position where attorneys and judges make the important long-lasting decisions that affect you and your family. A mediator isn’t a judge, and they cannot force you to do anything. One of the key reasons for choosing mediation is that you will have better control over the result of the dispute. Both parties can customize the terms of the agreement according to their needs and the parties are enabled to maintain control of their future and their children’s futures. The power over your divorce issues is now in your hands. This means that you (and your spouse) decide what to discuss and how you ultimately plan to settle your divorce. Don’t surrender your power of choice and the control over your future. A professional mediator, like John Sherrard of the Sherrard Law Group can help you design your own arrangements for the future that make the most sense for your situation.

2) Mediation Saves Money.

 Dragging a divorce through court can be very costly. Many families have ruined their finances due to the seemingly endless rounds of court hearings common in divorce proceedings. On the other hand, mediation is much more affordable.  Research shows that it is typically 50% less expensive to use the mediation process alongside a legal advisor, than using a legal advisor alone. Mediation usually occurs early in the divorce process, and many mediations are completed in one meeting. Divorce is already expensive enough as it is. You can reduce that cost significantly by choosing divorce mediation, and you can choose to mediate before filing for divorce to avoid contested litigation.

3) Mediation Saves Time.

 One major issue with taking your divorce to court is that it can lengthen the entire process unnecessarily. You may have to wait months as your respective lawyers coordinate their schedules with the presiding judge. Mediation significantly reduces that time. Often, all it takes is one productive session with a mediator to reach a resolution of the case. Not to mention, you can book your mediation appointment at a time and date that suits you.

4) Mediation is Fair and Impartial.

Mediators do not take sides. Mediators ensure that the session is fair and each party’s side is heard. Each party has an equal say in the Mediation process, and the parties, not the mediator, decide the terms of the settlement. There is no determination of winners or losers. There is simply an agreement that resolves all issues between the parties.

5) Mediation is Confidential.

A key issue with trying your divorce before a judge is the lack of confidentiality. When taking your case to trial before the Court, you will have to testify in front of judges, court employees, family members, witnesses, officers and observers. With mediation, everything said and done in the mediation session is completely confidential and without prejudice. All meetings are private, no matter where they are held, and they provide peace of mind for divorcing couples as they attempt to resolve their dispute. If all issues are resolved in mediation and litigation becomes necessary, the details of the mediation session cannot be presented in the courtroom. Litigation is public; mediation keeps your personal life private.

6) Mediation is Easier on Children.

Litigation is adversarial and creates “sides” to be taken, and divorce is rarely forgiving to the children caught between disputing spouses. Research indicates that prolonged parental conflict harms children. There is no need to place your family or children in a gladiator arena. Transition into a new phase of life should be as peacefully as possible by allowing a professional mediator to assist you in devising a long-term “parenting plan”, rather than having custody arrangements dictated by a court. You can demonstrate to your children that, even though Mom and Dad will be living separately, they will still be Mom and Dad who have resolved their differences amicably, and will both continue to take an active role in continuing to parent and protect them. You can shield your children from unnecessary trauma by choosing divorce mediation.

7) Mediation Improves Communication Between the Parties and Fosters Cooperation.

Mediation advocates better communication between parties by providing a neutral and confidential setting in which the parties can openly discuss their views on the underlying dispute. This is especially important in co-parenting situations where a couple must continue interacting with each other well after their divorce has been finalized. Mediating instead of litigating gives you the opportunity to build a positive future, instead of a negative one, as you move forward with your lives in different directions. By conserving financial resources, communicating and showing respect instead of fighting, taking control of your family’s future, making your own choices, and viewing your separation from the perspective of a team instead of as adversaries, parties can maintain their mental, emotional and physical health and move into the future in a positive way. Enhanced communication leads to mutually satisfactory resolutions.

8) Mediation is Voluntary.

Mediation is a voluntary process. You can choose to schedule a pre-suit mediation before any pleadings are filed. However, once the divorce case is filed, the court will require mediation. Nevertheless, whether court-ordered or scheduled on your own, mediation is voluntary. You are not required to reach an agreement and may terminate the mediation session at any time. If the session is terminated, you are not required to return to another mediation unless all parties agree.

9) Mediation Allows More Attention to be Focused on Your Needs and is Beneficial.

Many judges are understaffed and overworked and don’t have the time to sit down with a family to get to know them on a personal level. In most cases, judges communicate more so with lawyers than they do with the actual family. This isn’t their fault; it’s simply how the system works. Mediation, on the other hand, allows you to speak and be heard on a personal level. What you say can have a direct impact on how your divorce proceeds. All the while, your mediator will facilitate discussion and guide the process along. Mediation is always safe. You have nothing to lose by participating and everything to potentially gain. Mediation is a process and even if the mediation session does not result in a signed agreement, it have laid a foundation for settlement in the future and gives you a realistic picture of your case and your spouse’s case.

10) Mediation Works and Judges Appreciate It.

Mediation is a process for separated couples who need to work together to reach an agreement, but cannot do so without the assistance of a trained facilitator. Mediators are trained to facilitate communication and help clients focus on the issues they face. Mediators have resolved many seemingly “impossible” disputes. An independent survey showed about 80% of mediation cases settle and 96% of all respondents and 91% of all charging parties that were surveyed would use a mediator again. Furthermore, judges favor parties who attempt to mediate their claims before litigating them.

Whether you are the Respondent or the Charging Party, you should have a certified and skilled Mediator working with you throughout the mediation process. John Sherrard has been a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Law Mediator for over thirteen years and has been Board Certified by Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization and Education Family Law and Real Estate Law for more than 35 years. With his experience and knowledge, he is able to resolve most cases and draft an agreement that is signed by all mediating parties. That is why we invite you to contact the Sherrard Law Group today to speak to a member of our legal team and/or engage our services in setting a date for your mediation. We look forward to serving your needs in resolving your family law issues to your satisfaction.

Ten Basic Things You Ought To Know About Getting a Divorce in Florida

If you are thinking of getting a divorce, there are a few things you ought to know before consulting the Sherrard Law Group. Knowledge of the legal basics on divorce in Florida will save you time and money.

One: What is Required to File For Divorce?

One of the spouses must be a resident of Florida for at least six months before date of filing. Additionally, you must confirm that the marriage is irretrievably broken and cannot be resumed.

Two: The Process of Filing For Divorce

Your dissolution of marriage action starts when your divorce attorney files a “petition for dissolution of marriage” with the family division of the local circuit court. The documents will be served upon your spouse. If you and your spouse settle the terms of dividing property, responsibilities for your children, and debt, the divorce may be finalized without trial. Otherwise, you will proceed with production of documents, mediation and a trial will be held to resolve these matters.

Three: Marital Assets and Liabilities

Marital assets and liabilities are divided equitably in the event of a divorce, and generally on a 50/50 basis. However, non-marital assets are not subject to equitable distribution.

Four: Dividing Marital Property

The judge will bear in mind the economic circumstances of the spouses and their contributions towards the marriage. Assets are divided equally unless there are specific, reasonable grounds for unequal distribution, which is an extraordinary remedy.

Five: Alimony

When deciding whether to grant alimony, the courts will consider the standard of living during the marriage, the age and health condition of the spouses, and the duration of the marriage. The court must determine that one spouse has a financial need and the other has the financial ability to meet that need. If that is determined, the court must then decide the duration and amount of the spousal support.

Six: Parental Responsibility and Timesharing

Florida no longer refers to “custody” of children. Rather, the court decides upon the responsibility and timesharing schedules of each parent with their children.  If you and your former spouse cannot agree on these issues, the decision is left to the court. The judge will decide on parental responsibility and timesharing based on the best interests of the child.

Seven: Child Support

When determining child support, the court reviews the timesharing schedule, the incomes of both parents, child care and health costs and utilizes a Guideline to calculate child support. The judge will rule on an amount for child support based on the statutory guideline provisions.

Eight: Documents Required

For the court to divide your assets fairly and determine an amount for support, you are required to file a financial affidavit and present records of tax returns, bank statements, mortgage documents, an inventory of family and household possessions, and other documents necessary to support your request for equitable division, parental responsibility, spousal support and/or fees and cost of the divorce.

Nine: Marital Debts

Debts incurred by either party during the marriage will be divided equitably, and generally, equally. However, debts incurred before the marriage are not considered marital debts and will remain the debt of the party incurring it.

Ten: Taxes

The Court must consider the effect of taxes when ruling on equitable distribution of assets and debts. Also, a divorce will change your tax filing status. The recent federal tax legislation has dramatically changed the tax aspects of divorces going forward, so the services of a certified public accountant is always recommended to advise you of the tax effects of your divorce.

Remember, a skilled divorce attorney can make a monumental difference in the outcome of your divorce proceedings in Florida.  That is why we invite you to contact the Sherrard Law Group for a consultation with one of our experienced divorce attorneys. In addition to assisting in understanding how alimony may affect you, we will provide you with the support you need to handle other issues that may arise as divorce proceedings develop. The qualified attorneys at the Sherrard Law Group will work diligently to help you receive a reasonable and fair divorce outcome. We look forward to serving as your trusted legal representatives during this difficult time.

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