For family law attorneys, mediations represent the “bread and butter” of their divorce practice. While I have participated in over fifty divorce trials, the number of mediations I’ve been involved in is well into the hundreds. These numbers result from these two facts: (a) almost all family law cases entail at least one mediation because they are required by law before going to trial, and (b) the majority of family law disputes do not result in a trial because of the considerable advantages of settling the issues in the divorce at the mediation.

The venue and settings of a mediation explains why they’re generally effective.

First, the divorcing couple and their family law attorneys are finally present in one room with no distractions. The mediation forum presents the first opportunity for all of the players in the case to discuss openly the prospect of settling their disputes. In comparison, negotiations through e-mails and phone calls are inefficient and unreliable.

Second, the confidentiality that is bestowed upon the discussions that take place in a mediation allows the parties to make offers and concessions without fear of their statements being used against them later in court.

And finally, the mediator, unlike a judge or a magistrate, is actively seeking to bridge the divide between the parties and facilitate a resolution. It is easy to forget that mediators cannot take sides or order the parties to do anything. They remain completely neutral throughout the mediation. However, skilled mediators can subtly nudge one stubborn litigant into compromising enough to forge a settlement. Not all mediators possess this skill, though. This explains why experienced family lawers prefer using mediators that they’ve successfully worked with before.

Family law clients must keep in mind that settling at a divorce mediation almost always results in a more enforceable and less expensive outcome. When both parties contribute to the terms of a mediated agreement, they feel more invested in it than they would a ruling from a family law judge. The peace of mind that results in finality, combined with the money saved from not having to pay a trial retainer, also convinces most family law litigants to settle at their mediations. Finally, the appeal of risk-avoidance cannot be overstated. Even seasoned family law attorneys like myself cannot precisely predict how a judge will rule. Settling at the mediation saves litigants from the anxiety that surrounds this uncertainty.

If you need representation form a divorce or family law attorney in the Orlando metro area please call me, Eduardo J. Mejias at (407) 260-6001 and make an appointment for an initial consultation that will be free. At this consultation I will ask you to explain your situation and set forth a set of realistic goals and a plan of action to achieve your goals. Then I will quote you the lawyer retention fee we will charge at AAA Family Law for representing you in your case. Almost always, this will be a fixed (or flat) fee and you will know it before paying or signing any contract.

Family law attorneys face many unique challenges, some of which I have mentioned in past articles. But the “elephant in the room” that still needs to be addressed are attorney’s fees. In particular, I want to discuss why the fees charged by Florida family law attorneys are different from those of other attorneys. These are the three main forces that drive the way that family lawyers charge their fees and how AAA Family Law deals with them:

Family lawyers do not have a simple measure of the value of their service or standard service categories. This principle underlies all of all of the other factors. Family lawyers do not provide quantifiable services. We also do not have a menu of routine standard services to offer the way a typical automotive repair shop charges $19.99 for an oil change. No two divorces, paternity actions, relocations, etc., are the same. Some are much more complex than other and therefore, take more time. That is why the only measure we have left use for setting prices is how much time we spend on your case.

Florida family law attorneys cannot charge contingency-based fees. Over the last few decades, the general public has been bombarded with lawyer advertisements that scream “No fees unless you win!” This has led many of my potential clients to believe that I can offer them a plan for payment as a percent of their compensation. But the Florida Bar expressly prohibits family law attorneys from charging contingency fees. The policy reasons for this rule are beyond the scope of this article, but suffice to say, contingency fees are not an option for family law attorneys. And some family law cases, such as adoptions, prenuptial agreements and some injunctions, are not about one party paying the other. Continue Reading

Within Florida family law, relocation cases present the biggest gap between public perception and the controlling statute. This lack of knowledge stems from the recency of new statutory enactments dealing with the relocation of the parent with the children to a new town, state or country. Many of my divorced clients know some of the fundamental concepts of divorce, alimony, and child support. But they admit ignorance when they ask me about the possibility of relocating with their children. I then give them my divorce attorney “lecture” about Section 61.13001, Florida Statutes, which governs relocations of divorced parents. To the readers of this blog I offer this list relocation “Do’s and Don’ts”.

Do Prepare This For the Court

Benefits of a New Job

Perform a cost-benefit analysis of your proposed relocation. If a new job awaits you at your desired destination, obtain a precise income figure. Section 61.13001(7)(e) and (g) list the economic and employment benefits of the proposed move as factors that the trial court must consider. Furthermore, if you or your current spouse are starting a job in the new town, a job offer must be reduced to writing, and included in the petition for relocation. Section 61.13001, Florida Statutes.

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How to Work with Your Family Law Attorney

Family law, more so than other areas of law, requires communication and cooperation between the attorney and the client. Unlike other types of lawyers, family law attorneys must react to ongoing events and fluid situations. A client facing a DUI charge repeatedly discusses the same event to his attorney: the night he enjoyed a couple of drinks at the local watering hole and was pulled over while driving home.

Conversely, a divorce attorney deals with events during the course of the marriage, during the divorce proceedings, as well as future situations that may arise well after the divorce (e.g., the sale of the marital home or the date that child support obligation terminates for one of the parents). The breadth of facts that a family law attorney must be familiar with demands an open, honest, and harmonious attorney-client relationship. The family law client can take the following three steps to be sure of being on the “on the same page” with the attorney:

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Family lawyers (or divorce attorneys) in Orlando and everywhere else in Florida undoubtedly face unique challenges. In addition to providing legal advice, we are often called upon to act as therapists, sounding boards, and financial advisers. Because we wear so many hats, our advice to clients varies greatly. However, regardless of what you hire your family law attorney for, you should ask the following questions:

What is your level of specialized experience?

Family law has both breadth and depth. For example, a divorce may require a lawyer to analyze recent case law about time-sharing (child custody), draft a memorandum of law about the proper date of the valuation of a marital asset, and make compelling arguments about how much income a college graduate with a particular degree can earn. Each of these issues, by themselves, have generated dozens, if not hundreds, of appellate opinions that delineate the applicable rule of law.

Would you trust a “jack of all trades” lawyer (e.g., “your lawyer for life”) to appreciate all of the nuances and complexity of family law? Would you rely on your family doctor to guide you through a double-bypass heart surgery? Of course not.

For these reasons, if you have a family law issue, you should ask these questions of the lawyers you are considering:

(a) How much of their practice is devoted to family law?

(b) How many family law trials have they litigated?

(c) How often do they settle divorces at the mediation stage?

(d) How many of the local family law judges have they appeared in front of?

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