Family Mediation 

Family mediation is an informal meeting where the parties work out mutually agreeable settlements in family court cases. The parties have the opportunity to create options and negotiate priorities in their agreements that may be submitted to the court for approval. Some of the issues in family mediation cases are parental responsibility, parenting plans, equitable distribution, spousal support, child custody and visitation, child support, alimony, property division, modification, paternity, unified family court and debt responsibility.  Parties who have a combined income at or below $100,000 may utilize the services of court connected family mediation programs at a rate subsidized by the state [Section 44.108(2), Florida Statutes]. Parties with a combined income under $50,000 pay $60 per session per party and parties with a combined income over $50,000 pay $120 per session per party. Parties with a combined income over $100,000 are referred to private mediators. Indigent parties are eligible to receive mediation services at no charge.

 

There are different types of family related issues that also occur in specific cases and can be written as part of the family settlement agreement. The parties will review the issues that pertain to their case and will come to a partial or full agreement that will complete both parties concerns. In the state of Florida fascial year 2020-2021 circuit family court filing the category/case type for a simplified dissolution of marriage totaled 11,293 while there were 78,257 filings for a dissolution of marriage. In many cases a simplified dissolution of marriage means that the parties do not have children but are filing for a divorce that involves issues like financial responsibility of assets, debt responsibility and investments. The 78,257 filings for a dissolution of marriage means that many of these cases involved children and have been referred to the court system to resolve their family related issues. 

In fiscal year 2020-2021 Florida courts received 11,369 case filings for child support. In these cases there could be multiple children that were involved in the child support case which could mean issues like housing, food security, education location, jobs for youth that support their families, financial support, extra curricular activities, and many other issues. Paternity and the Disestablishment of Paternity case filings totaled 13,798 in the fiscal year 2020-2021 which means that these individuals were establishing parental rights for a minor child as their legal guardian or a case filing to revoke the parental rights of a Floridian parent or legal guardian. The significance of this data shows that many of our Floridian children are being affected by issues like gaining the child support needs met for their daily lives and who they listen to as their legal parent. Although many of these cases vary and it is hard to determine the statewide cultural patterns from this data, it does show the justice system the periodic trend statistically.

 

Efforts to help child support have been increased by the federal mandate for child tax credit. The Biden-Harris administration has enhanced child tax credit which led to lowest Black and Hispanic Child poverty rate ever in 2021. According the Biden-Harris administration, monthly child tax credit payments helped to reduce food insufficiency among low-income families by 25 percent. The legislation automatically enrolled hard to reach families with 729K children for the Child Tax Credit which are for these children whose parents signed up for stimulus payments but who had not recently filed a full return for monthly Child Tax Credit payments.  This historic achievement of the Biden-Harris administration is projected to have direct impacts on the child support case filings and the issues that many dissolution of marriage disputants have in the upcoming fiscal year report. 

 

There were also 74,972 case filing for orders for protection against violence which includes domestic violence, dating violence, repeat violence, sexual violence, and stalking violence. The right for protection against violence is a heartbreaking experience for many of the disputants that file these cases with the court system. Many of these instances come from broken families that are in desperate need for restorative justice and rehabilitation. Individuals that are affected by these types of violence are living with this life experience everyday and working along side our fellow Floridians. It is up to the Justice administration to find justice for these victims of violence and expose the continued battle between justice for victims and violence offenders. 

Let us continue to advocate for the rights of parents, children and victims that need the help of the Justice system. 

Case Study: Supervised Parenting Time-sharing

A parenting plan schedule is coordinated by individuals who are willing to communicate with the parties on the specific issues. Parenting coordination requires time-sharing between the parties that elaborate the time shared between minors and their parents. Supervised Time sharing is when a minor is spending time with a parent with supervised guardianship to ensure the child is cared for and protected. A supervised time sharing agreement involves specifics like where the parent will meet with the child at a mutually agreeable location without disruptions, the amount of time spend on visitation, the types of activities appropriate during time sharing, and legal weapons or triggering items that must be removed. In certain instances to protect the child from threats of violence or abuse, these precautions must be taken into account while spending time with the minor. For example, ex-military or law enforcement careers can require a supervised time sharing agreement for the safety of the minor due to the high profiled career a parent has with their minor. In this case study of supervised time sharing is vital to the people who have the position to serve and protect our communities and have a healthy relationship with their minor children. It can be hard to explain divorce or separation to a minor child but this type of co-parenting plan can be helpful when building your family. Being patient and giving yourself the credit of making a plan for the future is key to your parenting success.