Once a case enters litigation, all of the decisions, in each phase, are important in trying to efficiently and successfully resolve the case. Discovery is the process where each party gets to obtain information regarding the other party – financial and other records, depositions, written questions to the other side, and requests for the other spouse to make admissions regarding important issues – called Requests for Admissions. Discovery is an important and often expensive process.
Motions for Relief while the case is pending can involve many things – a request for temporary spousal support, a ruling by the Judge regarding visitation or how particular assets or debts are going to be dealt with while the case is pending, or a request to have a child returned to the jurisdiction if one parent moves with the child. The are many potential issues, ranging from financial to emergency hearings regarding the children.
Although mediation is a fairly common concept these days, and most people probably have some sense of what that is, there are sometimes some mis-perceptions about what the mediator will do. The mediator is not a judge for the case, and does not make a binding decision about the outcome of the case after each parties argues his or her side. Mediators, though, do have different styles or approaches, including how directive they’ll be in giving an opinion regarding how a case should be resolved, and whether they’ll conduct the mediation mostly with both parties in the room, or more via “caucuses” where the parties are in separate rooms and the mediator in a senses does shuttle diplomacy going back and forth between the parties. Some mediators are attorneys and some are therapists or other mental health professional. So, picking a mediator that both parties can agree on and that you believe will be good for you, is an issue that will come up at this stage of a case. If the parties cannot agree on a mediator, the Judge will appoint one, and if the parties’ combined net income is low enough – below $100,000 in Broward County for example, the parties can attend reduced fee mediation through the court mediation program located at the courthouse. You can find information about the Broward County court mediation program here, and about the Dade County program here.
Although some may downplay the drama of a family law trial, and there could be cases where the parties might instruct their attorneys to not put extensive time into preparing for the trial, because they just want to go in front of the Judge, tell their story, and have someone finally resolve the case, in most cases a family law trial is a highly important and often dramatic event. If a party has put the time and expense into litigating a case up to the point of a trial, the issue is probably important enough that they want to prevail – have the case decided by the Judge in the way they believe it needs to be decided. Once it comes to trial, in addition to having the facts and law in your favor, the most important thing is preparation. If the issue is contested and not absolutely and clearly something that will be decided in your favor, there is no substitute for thorough preparation for the trial.