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Most Cases Settle But a Lot Don’t

In Palm Beach County, your divorce case (really, any civil case) isn't going to trial unless the parties...and their lawyers if they've got them....go to mediation with a neutral third party specially trained to try to get the parties to reach agreement on all of the issues (the mediator). The Order Setting Trial will order you go to mediation....and, sometimes, force you to go, a second or third time, if you went to mediation before that Order issued.

It is super-great to settle at mediation PROVIDED that the agreement is arrived at quickly and efficiently and then reduced to a writing that everyone signs....right there at mediation. Here are some pitfalls to avoid:

  • Unless you are wealthy, avoid the 10 hour/all night/2 day mediation. The lawyers make money, the mediator makes money but, after 10 hours your blood sugar is low and you'll agree to anything just to get on your way home. Could you have tried mediation for 3 hours....failed....and then had a 2 hour trial? Would that have been less expensive AND gotten you a better result?
  • Don't think failing to settle at mediation and going to trial is........well, don't think it's a failure. Sometimes the parties really need a Judge to tell them what's what. Judges are not that scary. Your Judge may like you and hate your spouse. So, failing at mediation could be...in the long run....a success!
  • Mediation isn't the time to educate the other side about your case. Sometimes, when you are close to agreeing, it's appropriate to present a few facts to get your spouse and their lawyer on board. If you aren't close to agreeing, it's time to leave. Trying to convince the other side of the rightness of your position may give them additional information to use against you at the trial. And don't let the mediator convince you otherwise. You are not at mediation to make the mediator happy. You are there to try to settle and, if you can't....you can't.
  • As you sit there in mediation, you may be thinking to yourself: "I really want to settle to make the mediator happy."/"My lawyer seems like she/he wants me to settle....I want the lawyer to be happy."/"This is taking a long time, I feel crappy, I should just agree to what is being proposed and go home."/"I'm afraid that if I go to court, I won't get anything I want."/"I've spent so much money on this meditation that I had better settle."/"The Judge will be mad at me if we don't settle."/"The other lawyer seems better than my lawyer, I'd be scared if I went to trial."
  • Your husband/wife will also be thinking these things.
  • If there is an agreement at mediation, insist it be written up and that everyone sign before you leave. Nine times out of ten, the idea that one of the lawyers will draw something up and everyone will sign off on it in a few days is a BAD idea. Minds change. Things happen. An agreement to agree is meaninglessly unenforceable. On the other hand, a handwritten agreement cobbled together on two pieces of paper ripped out of a yellow legal pad is as binding as 22 pages of boilerplate spit out of a laser jet printer.
...but, whatever you decide........Good Luck!

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