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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jeff Mandelkorn, PhD

Marital Conflict and Family Law Mediation: An Introduction

No one enters into a committed relationship with the expectation of discord and conflict. The presence of marital conflict and unhappiness can have a significant detrimental impact on one’s physical, mental, and emotional functioning.

Conflict resolution and therapeutic interventions can be extremely helpful in many cases; however, some couples may experience irreparable harm or damage in the context of their marriage. In many of these cases, the individuals seek to end the marriage by filing for divorce, or dissolution of marriage.

While each person’s case is unique, many petitions for divorce are referred for family law mediation by the judge prior to engaging in litigation. Below is some information about mediation that may be helpful if you or someone you love are having difficulties with their marriage or are wondering about family law mediation:

What is mediation?

Mediation is a specific process of resolving disputes and coming to an agreement on a contested issue. The role of the mediator is to open lines of communication and facilitate discussions between parties who are involved in a legal dispute.

Mediation places the decision-making power in the hands of the parties, and everything discussed in the mediation process is kept confidential unless reporting is mandated by law. Agreements developed and signed by both parties during mediation are binding and enforceable once filed with the court.

What is family law mediation?

Family law mediation is often utilized when a couple is proceeding with a dissolution of marriage and involves issues related to division of assets and debts, shared parenting plans, alimony, and division of other entitlements.

In Florida, mediation is often recommended prior to litigating family law issues. Like other forms of mediation, agreements developed and signed by both parties to during mediation are binding and enforceable once filed with court.

What are some differences between mediation and litigation?

Both mediation and litigation are forms of dispute resolution. A significant difference between these processes involves the decision-making power of the parties. In mediation, the parties themselves decide the course and content of mediation. With the help of the mediator, the parties engage in discussion and negotiation, and the spirit of self-determinism by the parties is one of the prevailing aspects of mediation.

Summarily put, the parties hold the power in mediation. Some parties opt to have an attorney present in the mediation; however, the parties have ultimate authority on developing a mediated settlement agreement. During litigation, the parties’ attorneys, while representing their clients’ best interests, engage in the adversarial process in front of a judge who ultimately rules on the issues. 

While the outcomes of both mediation and litigation are binding, mediation is considered an informal process. That is, mediation occurs outside of the courtroom and with no direct influence of a judge. And because agreements are made collaboratively, oftentimes disputed issues are resolved quicker when compared to the litigation processes and procedures.

In addition to being an informal process, mediation is viewed as collaborative while litigation is viewed as adversarial and is subject to the formal procedures of the court.

Do I need representation by an attorney in order to engage in family law mediation?

This is a question that comes up quite often. While not a requirement, those engaging in mediation often chose to retain an attorney during this process. Many practicing attorneys have participated in mediation and can be a source of support and guidance through what can be a very stressful time.

Mediation requires certain forms to be filed with the court which can be difficult for a layperson to navigate. The agreement(s) developed during mediation will ultimately be filed in the courts as well and presented to the judge. An attorney will likely be well-versed in the technical aspects/processes of working within the court system. In addition, attorneys may have information related to the specific family issues in dispute, as well as experiences with various judges who may preside over the case. Summarily put, consulting with experts in the field is always advisable, but the process of mediation itself does not require an attorney to be present. 

You may have more questions, and my hope is that the general information has been both informative and motivating should you be in a situation that may require family law mediation.

Information-gathering and consultation are essential when facing new challenges or opportunities. I encourage you to reach out to Dr. Jeffrey D Mandelkorn at 954.391.5305 or at to learn more about how mediation can be helpful for you and your family.


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