How to Prepare for Mediation in Orlando

Mediation can offer substantial advantages and opportunities to all sides of a legal dispute, and individuals who arrive prepared to their mediation are much more likely to be pleased at the outcome.

As experienced Orlando family law attorneys, we’ve seen countless cases resolved through the process of mediation. Typically, clients who are willing to mediate see their cases resolved more quickly and with less administrative costs compared to an adversarial process like a trial. Even clients who do not get the outcome they hoped for during mediation can approach arbitration or a jury trial better prepared and with a better understanding of the other side’s goals.

Achieving progress through your mediation requires fairly extensive preparation, so make sure to study up on the process and your case before you attend your appointment. You can use the following 6 steps to ensure you are better prepared, making you better equipped to effectively pursue your preferred outcome.

Step 1: Read Up on How Mediation Works

Mediation is a relatively unique process among legal proceedings. Neither party will be subject to a binding decision unless they can mutually agree upon one. Each party essentially approaches one another as equals.

The mediator is there not as a figure of authority but rather a figure of neutrality. Their only aim is to make sure each party is clearly understood and that they understand the legal ramifications of certain tentative agreements they discuss.

A mediator will not be allowed to provide explicit legal advice or weigh in on who is more “right” in a matter under dispute. A party therefore cannot “win” the approval of a mediator or get the mediator to favor one possible outcome over another.

Under Florida law (Mediation Confidentiality and Privilege Act, § 44.401 – 44.406, Florida Statutes), all court-ordered mediations and all mediations overseen by a certified mediator will remain confidential, with few exceptions. Mediations that don’t fall under these categories can still be made confidential with the consent of all parties involved.

In confidence, you can speak as freely as you wish with less concern that your statements will be made public record. The other parties involved will have the information you reveal on their personal record, but they cannot disclose it publicly without your permission in most instances.

Your mediator will attempt to keep the discussion focused and make sure each side understands the others’ positions and desired outcomes. If need be, they will help remove obstacles to agreement by refocusing the discussion into a more productive frame of mind.

Knowing all of this, come to your mediation prepared to learn, educate, discuss, and consider possibilities. Keep calm, keep an open mind, and know that the goal is to try and further discussion in a lower-stakes setting. Ideally, a negotiated agreement can be reached, but even if not, each party will walk away having more awareness of the others’ wishes.

Step 2: Know the Details of Your Case

Unlike trial proceedings or even many arbitrated agreements, a mediator will not always be satisfied just hearing from a party’s representative attorney(s). They may often ask for the party in question to explain their position or put their wishes into their own words.

You are not obligated to respond, of course, but the goal is to get each party to hear the others’ voice, both metaphorically and literally.

You will therefore be expected to at least have a working knowledge of your case. It can greatly benefit you to be able to define in exact terms what your position is, what your goals are, and what legal facts you will use to pursue your desired outcome.

For instance, if you think you deserve full custody of a child given your former spouse’s lifestyle and behaviors, you should know personally what laws or case precedents support your position. Even if you never explain the details of your case out loud, your knowledge will affect your ability to engage in active discussion and be figuratively present at the table.

Step 3: Have Goals in Mind, But Don’t Approach Mediation with Rigid Expectations

You and any representative Orlando family law attorneys should have a specific agreement to propose to the other party as well as an ideal outcome in mind. You should also be aware of which parts of your ideal outcome you would be willing to compromise on as a concession to help everyone reach a consensus.

In other words, you should be specific regarding your proposed agreement terms, but not insist that those are the only terms that are acceptable. Otherwise, the mediation will reach a stalemate and both parties may as well walk away rather than waste time repeating themselves.

With that said, you should be prepared to walk away from mediation if you don’t see a way forward to an agreement. Don’t think you have to reach an agreement during your first mediation appointment or through mediation at all. Your goal is just to try, and to see what comes out of the attempt.

Step 4: Be Prepared to Arrive at Your Mediation on Time

Mediations operate within a limited time window. If you arrive late to your mediation or miss your appointment entirely, you will have missed one of your opportunities to pursue a non-adversarial resolution.

Your mediator or the other party may even consider your absence an indication that you don’t take the process seriously, resulting in potential consequences like the case moving forward to another method of dispute resolution.

To prevent this outcome, know the exact date, time, building, and room your mediation will take place. Also have your transportation plan arranged well ahead of time — many buildings in Orlando have complex parking processes or only have far away parking options. Predict how much time it will take for you to park your vehicle and make your way to the planned meeting room with time to spare.

Step 5: Leave Adversarial Intentions at the Door

Only arrange a mediation appointment if you intend to negotiate and discuss your dispute in a respectful way. A mediation is not the place to simply restate a prior rejected offer or level accusations at the other party with no other possibilities in mind. You also won’t likely be presenting “surprise” evidence or motions at the mediation except in unusual circumstances.

Know that a mediation isn’t a trial, and that you aren’t there to “prove” anything. You are trying to reach an understanding as well as an agreement.

Step 6: Be Willing to Continue Mediation or Move On Based on the Results of Your Appointment(s)

Very few mediated agreements spring forth in just one meeting. You can expect to meet several times in order to make progress and ensure the full extent of your position is understood. It may take several appointments before you even begin to see a possible compromise both sides would agree to.

That said, don’t assume you’re forced to continue if you see no possibility of progress. Mediation is a voluntary process that only concludes when both parties either agree to a negotiated settlement (which is a legally binding contract) or one party decides they no longer want to continue meeting.

Prepare for Your Mediation with Experienced Orlando Family Law Attorneys at Your Side

The more prepared you are for your mediation, the better equipped you will be to have a productive discussion.

You can always rely upon the expert advice of Orlando family law attorneys to get help reviewing your case, prepare possible offers, and set your expectations appropriately. With a skilled attorney at your side, you can increase the possibility of reaching a satisfactory outcome.

If you think mediation might be the best course of action for your Orlando family law case, you can reach out to our highly experienced and qualified attorneys today. Give us a call or use our contact form, and you’ll receive a free consultation.


Andrew Nickolaou

Andrew Nickolaou, Esq., B.C.S., is a founding partner at Bernal-Mora & Nickolaou, P.A. He practices almost exclusively in divorce, marital and family law. Andrew also handles record expungements and sealings. If you have questions about this article, contact Andrew today by clicking here.