The simple answer is: Because the law requires it. Florida Statute 61.183 gives the Court discretion to require the Husband & Wife / Mother & Father to attend mediation in any case where there are contested issues of parental responsibility, primary residence, visitation or support of a child.
Most Courts in Florida require the parties to mediate before setting a family law case for trial. With over 79,000 divorce actions filed each year and almost 16,000 paternity actions in the State of Florida, the Courts simply cannot handle the docket if all cases go to trial. (Florida Office of State Courts Administrator FY 2016-17)
Despite feeling like you are being forced into mediation, most times it is successful, and cases are resolved. Very few family law cases end up in Court being decided by a Judge. Only about 5 % of family law cases go to trial (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-divorce-process/).
Why is mediation a better alternative than trial?
- Mediation provides more decision making by the parties and less by the Court. parties can spend as much time in mediation as necessary and mediate more than once to resolve the case. Time is valuable when planning a parenting schedule that truly addresses the best interest of the children and their parents. Preparation and good negotiation skills help you determine what is important in a divorce and what is not. In mediation, you can focus on what you need to resolve the case and have a positive future. A successful mediation is a well-crafted tool that distributes assets and debt with precision. On the other hand, Courts are short on time and do not have intricate knowledge about you or what the needs of your family are. A trial is more of a blunt tool, wherein the Judge decides things for a family he/she knows nothing about.
- You can choose your Mediator, but you can’t choose your Judge. Mediation gives more power to the people. You and your attorney can choose the best mediator to fit your case and deal with your spouse. Different mediators have different personalities and skills. Choosing the right mediator makes a huge difference in many cases and is key to dealing with difficult spouses and issues. You and your attorney have the power to choose the best mediator to get your case resolved. On the other hand, you can’t pick your Judge. Whoever is sitting on the family law bench when your case goes to trial is what you get in Court.
- Mediation is cost-effective. You and your attorney will spend a lot less time and money preparing for and attending mediation than you will spend in trial. While it definitely takes time to properly prepare a case for mediation; it is substantially less expensive than the alternative of trial. Trial requires additional time, additional discovery, additional risk, adherence to the rules of evidence (not all important information is admissible in court) and additional stress (having to testify and be cross-examined by your spouse’s attorney can be nerve-wracking. It also requires additional time (Court dockets are overburdened and full; there is never enough time to present all your facts and it takes many months/sometimes years to get your day in Court).
- You have to Mediate anyway; The Court is going to order you to mediation before setting a trial date; so make the best of it. Work with your attorney, plan your strategy, choose your mediator, save some money and get your case resolved so you can move on to bigger and better things.