According to the Florida courts, mediation is considered a form of alternative dispute resolution. Mediation aims to facilitate compromise among people having a dispute or disagreement. A third party mediator helps the disputing parties to talk more effectively and openly with hopes of reaching a consensus.
Mediators are trained professionals who help to guide communication, but who do not make decisions on behalf of the parties involved in mediation. The Florida court system provides a step-by-step guide detailing the requirements of becoming certified as a court mediator, which is based on a points system. Mediators must acquire at least 100 points, and points are earned through advanced education in a related field; completion of court training programs; mentorship; and mediation experience.
Mediation may be court ordered or parties may voluntarily chose mediation as an alternative to litigation. Whether court ordered or voluntary, it is up to the parties whether they are able to reach a compromise during mediation or not. Either party can end mediation and no one is forced to agree to a compromise. If mediation fails, the dispute will be litigated before a judge in the relevant court with jurisdiction over the dispute.
Mediation is common in family court cases, especially when parents disagree on dividing parenting time. Mediation is also useful in any circumstance where the parties involved in a dispute want to preserve existing relationships. For example, if two business partners are involved in a legal dispute over their employment contracts and they want to continue working together but need outside help to resolve their disagreement, mediation may be preferable to litigation.
Because of its focus on compromise, mediation can be less acrimonious than litigation. It can also be more cost-effective if parties are committed to compromise. However, anyone mediating a dispute must know his or her legal rights related to the issues under disagreement. In addition, they have a right to an attorney to ensure their best interests are represented in mediation.