If you're divorcing your spouse in Florida and you can't get on the same page when it comes to deciding who will pay child support and in what amount, the judge will order you both to attend mediation sessions. This is a requirement under state law when parents can't agree on matters of child custody and support. The good news is that whatever agreement you reach in mediation will be incorporated into your divorce decree if the judge approves it.
Mediation May Be Ordered When You File for Divorce
When you file for divorce in Florida, the law gives the judge authority to order mediation for you and your spouse. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution in which an independent third party, the mediator, helps you and your spouse work together to create an agreement you both find satisfactory. Typically, Florida judges order mediation when spouses can't agree on a particular issue, such as child support, in the hope that doing so will resolve your disagreements and the court will not be forced to step in and make the decision for you.
Child Support Order Is Set During Divorce Proceeding
Typically, the parent who does not provide a home for the child on a full-time basis must pay child support to the custodial parent. In Florida, child custody is known as time-sharing. The court sets the amount of support based on the child support guidelines set by state law. These guidelines take into account a variety of factors, including both parents' incomes, the child's age, his needs, and childcare and healthcare costs. Both parents are free to reach their own child support agreement, mutually on their own or as a result of court-ordered mediation. If you don't follow the state's child support guidelines, however, be prepared to explain why to the court. For example, you may have deviated from the guidelines because your child spends almost equal time at your home as that of your spouse so your expenses may be similar, requiring less child support.
You Are Responsible for Mediation Costs
If you are ordered to attend mediation, the court will mail you an Order of Referral to Family Court Mediation. The order will likely include a list of approved mediators to choose from, often located in the court's in-house mediation department. The cost of mediation is set by law. As of 2014, if your combined incomes are between $50,000 and $100,000, you and your spouse will each will pay $120 per session. If your combined income is less than $50,000, you’ll each pay $60. If combined incomes are greater than $100,000, you can't use the court's mediation services; instead, you must hire a private mediator. The mediator is an unbiased third party who serves the best interests of both parties and the child. She cannot bully or sway you into entering an agreement you're not happy with. If you reach an agreement during mediation, the mediator will put it in writing and submit it to the court for approval. If you can't reach a mutually satisfactory agreement, the mediator will notify the court but cannot provide any recommendations.
Approved Agreement Becomes Court Order
If your agreement is approved, the judge will incorporate it into your divorce decree, making it a legally binding court order. If the judge doesn't approve the terms, or you can't reach any agreement, the judge takes over and makes a child support determination for you.
- Online Sunshine: 2014 Florida Statutes, Title VI, Chapter 61, Section 183
- Florida Bar: Family Law Rules of Procedures
- Florida Courts: About ADR and Mediation
- First Judicial Circuit of Florida: Family Law Mediation
- Online Sunshine: 2014 Florida Statutes, Title VI, Chapter 61, Section 30
- Florida Department of Revenue: Child Support Amounts
- Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida: Frequently Asked Questions About Family Court Mediation
- Eighth Judicial Circuit of Florida: Family Mediation - Frequently Asked Questions
- Photo Credit Monkey Business Images Ltd/Monkey Business/Getty Images
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