Melissa is a teacher and her husband David is a store manager in South Florida. They have two children, Jonathan age 7, and Brittany, age 4. They own their home and two cars and have too much credit card debt. Money is tight.
Unfortunately, they recognize their marriage is over, but Melissa and David want to part as friends and remain as normal a family unit as possible for their children. They still treat each other with respect and want to get a divorce without ruining their lives. They know this will not be easy and feel they need professional help in negotiating the terms of the parenting and visitation plan and their divorce. They want to avoid spending their savings on legal fees and want to save their relationship from a hateful court battle. They like the idea of minimum cost and minimum stress.
Melissa knew about FairVORCE through her friend Linda, who had used this mediation process. Even though Linda did not have any children, the other issues in her divorce were somewhat complex. She recommended the FairVORCE concept and said,
"This is a less stressful way to work out the divorce. I can't believe how much money we saved not using divorce lawyers. Using FairVORCE helped us to absorb the other expenses caused by the divorce. It allowed us to get on with our lives."
That's why Melissa and David agreed to explore FairVORCE South Florida Divorce Mediation as a viable option to help them through this unfamiliar process. David had spoken with several of his colleagues at work who had approached divorce the old way which resulted in months of bitterness and mountains of expense. He knew how destructive that could be. They reviewed the criteria for use of FairVORCE on the website and it seemed to fit their family situation.
Melissa and David learned the core purpose of FairVORCE is to help them negotiate a final settlement agreement, write it up and go to court for an uncontested divorce. They agreed that this was their goal. They were concerned that a protracted court battle would embitter them and negatively affect the relationships each had with the grandparents and extended family.
They called the FairVORCE administrator and scheduled their first session at the FairVORCE mediation facility in Fort Lauderdale at a time convenient to both of them. The first session was set for four hours and the cost was divided between them as agreed.
At the start of the session, the Certified Mediator first discussed the concept of mediation and how it would be used to help them achieve an agreement. They made a commitment to each other and to their Mediator to conduct themselves in accordance with the FairVORCE guidelines so that the mediation could proceed in an orderly and fair fashion. Melissa and David also acknowledged that the Mediator did not represent either of them, was not providing legal advice and that there was no guarantee that they would reach an agreement since the two of them retain control and could agree or not.
After the initial joint meeting, the Mediator met with them individually and jointly, as he thought appropriate. He then provided an agenda that covered all the points such as parenting and visitation plan, division of assets, allocation of debts, support, etc. Melissa and David worked with the Mediator and built the final agreement together, point by point.
They were able to cover all the items to create the final agreement in the first session; however, David needed specific information on two items and requested more time to carefully reflect on the agreed items. The second session was scheduled for two hours. Several days later, they met again with the Mediator and reached a proposed final agreement. The proposed agreement was not to be signed until after each received independent legal advice.
The proposed agreement was signed in duplicate and the originals retained by FairVORCE. Copies were provided to each of the parties so that they each would be afforded the right to meet with separate attorneys and be provided independent legal advice. Both attorneys reviewed the proposed agreement, and both approved it with only one minor adjustment. Because each attorney spent less than two hours with their clients, their legal fees were minimized.
Independent review advice is an important element of the FairVORCEprocess. Melissa and David needed to know the proposed agreement was correct and in the best interests of each of them and their children. They knew the judge would be asking these same questions before the agreement would be approved by the court.
The final signed original agreements, with the minor adjustment, were released to Melissa and David, who then went to the office of the Clerk of the Court, located in the county courthouse. They secured forms from the Clerk and completed them as instructed. Five weeks later, they appeared before a judge for a ten minute hearing at which the final agreement was approved and the divorce granted.