Mediations Held In Boca Raton or by Video Conference With Spouses Anywhere in Florida

Divorce Mediation Questions?
Eric Has Answers

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What is a PeacefulSplit® divorce mediation?

Divorce mediation is a voluntary, non-adversarial process in which you and your spouse are guided through the process of negotiating issues necessary to file for a divorce. The process begins by each of you reviewing and signing a Mediation Agreement (which I will send to you and your spouse once you let me know you both want to proceed with mediation). This Agreement is the document by which you hire me to serve as the mediator(s) in this matter. At the first session, I review the topics that we will discuss, explain the process in detail, answer any of your preliminary questions, and then we begin to work on areas of basic agreement. We then resolve as many issues as possible first before moving onto to more sensitive issues or issues of significant disagreement. There will be times when I will speak with either of you privately to help narrow down issues or discuss possible negotiated positions. When we resolve one issue we move onto the next. Most importantly, you and your spouse maintain total control of all decisions.

What type of documents are prepared?

Upon conclusion of the mediation session(s), I will draft either one or both of the following documents for you to file with your uncontested divorce papers: (i) Mediated Marital Settlement Agreement – which is an agreement that details how the two of you will divide-up your assets (things you own) and your debts (amounts you owe to others); and (ii) Parenting Plan – which is an agreement that details how the two of you will parent your child(ren) after the divorce (e.g., visitation, parental responsibility, child support, educational and health decisions). In a PeacefulSplit® mediation, the settlement documents that I draft for you are personalized and customized to meet your specific situation, relationship, children, needs and desires.

How quickly can mediation be scheduled?

As a private mediator, I work for the both of you. I make myself available to meet your schedules, including weekends. You let me know when you both are ready; I will be too. 

What is Eric's background and experience?

Eric B. Epstein is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator, Licensed Attorney in both Florida and New York, and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. He's been practicing law for over 29 years. 

He graduated in 1991 from the NYU Stern School of Business with a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance, and then in 1994 received his law degree from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City. In 2018, he earned a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Nova Southeastern University. He was admitted to the New York Bar in 1995 and the Florida Bar in 2010.

Eric does not represent individuals in the divorce process. His focus is strictly on helping couples mediate their divorce-related issues and is dedicated to working in a peaceful and non-adversarial manner. He believes that more can be accomplished from looking at both sides of an issue and understanding each person’s reality given the context of their behavior and position. He is very patient and uses his diverse education and training to meet his clients’ needs.

What makes you different from other mediators?

I will never represent to be “better” than any other mediator.  However, if you do your due diligence and speak with different mediators, I think you will conclude that my background, experience, and skillset is uniquely designed to help couples effectively, calmly, and peacefully navigate the divorce process.  Eric has personally mediated over 500 divorces.

As a lawyer with over 29 years of experience and as a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator, I possess knowledge and skills from a legal perspective to help clients constructively resolve complicated and often contentious issues. As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I possess knowledge and skills from a psychological and emotional perspective to assist couples peacefully and sensitively manage the divorce process and their emotional reactions during the mediation sessions.

When you are choosing a mediator, think about not only who has the knowledge and experience to help you resolve issues during mediation sessions, but who also possesses the skills to draft the various settlement agreements to put into writing the issues resolved during mediation

My settlement agreements (the Marital Settlement Agreement and the Parenting Plan) are, on average, each about 40 pages long.  They are personalized to your specific needs and situations.  They are not just boilerplate, cookie-cutter documents. No two agreements that I ever draft is the same – because each divorcing couple is not the same.

Remember, almost anyone can become a mediator. However, not everyone who is a mediator can draft high-quality, detailed, effective, and personalized settlement agreements to serve as the basis of your divorce.

I do not represent any individual clients in the divorce process.  I do not litigate divorces. I do not represent one spouse against the other spouse. I do not represent parents in custody cases. 

Rather, at this point in my life, I have chosen to dedicate my career, time, and energy to one goal: helping couples peacefully divorce!

How long does the mediation process take? How long are the sessions?

The reality of the mediation process is that the length of time to complete the process is in your hands. Most couples who contact me end-up mediating the same week or the following week; others have more challenging schedules, and it takes longer to have the first session.

I allocate up to 3-hours for the first session. From my experience doing hundreds of mediations, the vast majority (in my estimation between 65% - 70%) are resolved in our first session – even when issues concerning minor children are discussed and negotiated. By combining my extensive background and experience as an attorney, mediator, and psychotherapist, I can guide couples through the mediation sessions and avoid them unnecessarily being pulled off-course.

After the issues are resolved, I then draft the appropriate settlement agreement(s). At that point, the timing is again in your hands. Some couples take a long time to review and requested changes to the agreement(s); other couple are very proactive and responsive with changes or approvals.

Either way, my goal is to ensure that I am always efficient and responsive to my clients and their needs, and that I am never the cause of any delays in the mediation process.

Do we have to go to court?

One of the main benefits of engaging in private mediation is to avoid going to Court and involving the Court system until the end of the divorce process. Working together in a safe and neutral environment, Eric helps you to arrive at a negotiated settlement that is then written into a Mediated Marital Settlement Agreement. Similarly, if you have minor children, Eric helps you negotiate terms and conditions that are then written into a Parenting Plan. Only when you have reached a settlement on all of the issues and have signed and notarized the settlement agreement(s), will you then decide when to fill-out and file the applicable Uncontested Divorce forms with the appropriate court and appear thereafter before a Judge to formalize and approve the divorce.  Usually the appearance is held by Zoom (or other video conferencing system) and is quickly concluded.

Do we both have to be involved to mediate?

Yes. Mediation is voluntary and requires the involvement and agreement of both parties. I only do mediations where both spouses feel safe and comfortable being in the same room together. Of course, if we do the mediation via video conference, then you can certainly be in a separate location from your spouse.

Can we use mediation with you even if one or both of us have attorneys?

No. Although there are mediators who mediate divorce cases when either or both parties are represented by counsel, I intentionally choose not to work with couples who are represented by lawyers for the mediation sessions.  While I firmly believe that attorneys have a needed place in some divorce cases, I also think that sometimes it can inhibit the parties from negotiating in good faith to a fair and amicable resolution. That being said, if you want to be represented by a lawyer during all or part of the process, that is perfectly fine. However, I will not mediate such cases. If you are currently represented by counsel, I cannot communicate with you. If, at some point, you end being represented by a lawyer, I can discuss the mediation process with you and see if it is a good fit for you and your spouse.

In divorce, who protects the children?

In a PeacefulSplit® Divorce Mediation, I always hold the best interests of the children paramount. The needs of the child(ren) are addressed and agreements are reached with our assistance. All topics are addressed, such as: shared parental responsibility, visitation, living arrangements, birthdays and holiday scheduling, child support, and all other child-related issues. Mediation can also address details not traditionally handled within the adversarial arena, such as higher education, private schools, car insurance, etc. In mediation, the focus is on the best interests of the children. In the adversarial process, an attorney is obligated to protect the best interests of their client. Sometimes, unfortunately, this is not always in the best interests of the children.

Will mediation work if one or both parties are angry?

Generally, the answer is "yes". In over 28-years as an attorney working with high conflict situations, most cases were resolved in a negotiated settlement when both parties were committed to resolution and finality. Underlying issues that can interfere with resolution, such as anger, fear and defensiveness, are challenges to the mediation process; however, we are committed to doing whatever is reasonably possibly to help you both put aside such significant negative emotions and feelings and working together towards a peaceful resolution of all issues.

What are the benefits of mediation?

  • Significantly reduces the legal costs associated with a contested divorce.
  • Enhances child/parent relationships.
  • Maintains privacy.
  • Creates safety for all parties.
  • Allows for your control over all decisions and agreements.
  • Reduces stress for all family members.
  • Fosters consensus building and conflict resolution.
  • Promotes effective communication.
  • Supports and acknowledges the difficult transitions of life events.

Will mediation work if we have a overly complex divorce?

Yes! There is no simple divorce; they are all complex and personal to the parties involved. We bring a clear step-by-step approach to the resolution of all issues. Ironically, sometimes what seem like the “simple” divorces take longer and are more complicated to resolve amicably than are the “complicated” divorce matters. In the end, it is not the complexity or simplicity of the financial or parenting issues that impedes a successful mediation, but, rather, the lack of commitment on the part of the spouses to focus on the longer-term issues and perspectives.

If we agree to mediate, are we stuck if it doesn’t work out?  Can I change my mind?

Mediation is a voluntary process. Our goal is to help guide you and facilitate negotiations to enable you both to resolve all issues needed to create the settlement agreements. If, for any reason, you decide during the process and before you sign the settlement documents that mediation is not for you, or that you are not comfortable or simply decided to proceed in a different direction, then the mediation is over. In that case, you are back to “square-one” and can proceed with all available options as if you never started mediation.  You have absolutely nothing to lose by trying to obtain a PeacefulSplit®. Essentially, its risk-free (except for the fee).

Do we need to file for divorce immediately after mediation?

In short, no.  The choice of when to file for divorce with the Court in your county is entirely as your discretion. Some couples choose to file for divorce as soon as they have signed and notarized the final version of the settlement agreements that I drafted for them. Others may choose or need to wait for weeks or months to actually file (e.g., waiting for a child to finish the school year). Others may choose to wait even longer. 

The benefit of completing the mediation process now - even if you do not plan to immediately file for divorce - is the benefits of having all of the divorce issues (i.e., finances and parenting issues) resolved and then signing and notarizing of the various settlement agreements that Eric will draft for you. Therefore, as of the date you both sign the agreements, you will have in place a formal agreement that sets forth, in detail, how your financial life is being divided-up between both spouses and the process and rules for how both of you parent and spend time with your children.

For example, even if you file for the divorce in June of a particular year but signed the settlement agreement(s) in April of that year, the divorce will be based upon the division of assets/debts that is reflected in the settlement agreement. In general, any assets/debts acquired after the effective date of the settlement agreement are the individual property of that spouse and not considered as marital property.  That is the biggest advantage of completing mediation ---- certainty.

What happens if we are unable to resolve all of the issues in mediation? Did we just waste our time?

Couples often ask me if mediation will end-up being a waste of time if they are unable to resolve EVERY issue.  The answer is definitely not. One of mediations unique advantage and benefit is that it's not an "all-or-nothing" process.  Of course, my goal is to help every couple resolve every issue facing them in their divorce.  However, sometimes, despite the best efforts of all parties, there may be an issue or two that the couple just cannot resolve; they each may have a good-faith disagreement.  If that situation were to happen to you, mediation is still productive and helpful.  However, in that case, instead of the settlement agreements resolving every issue, they would resolve "almost" every issue.  When the couple then files for the Uncontested Divorce with the Court, instead of indicating in their court filing that they completed mediation and resolved all issues (which are reflected in a settlement agreement), they would advise the court that they resolved almost every issue but need the court/judge to resolve 1 or 2 specific issues that are still in dispute.  Thus, the court/judge would then get involved to help the couple resolve those open-issues and the rest of the issues in the divorce would follow according to the agreement I drafted for the couple following the mediation sessions.

How Is Financial Disclosure Handled In Mediation?

In mediation, all financial information is voluntarily disclosed. Nothing is mandatory.
I have written an extensive article about financial disclosure in mediation which explains everything about disclosure, how it works in mediation as compared to how it will be handled in litigation.  Please note that when you file the divorce forms with the court, a mandatory financial affidavit may be required.

Please click this link to read this informative article and get your questions answered.

Do you help couples anywhere in Florida? 

Absolutely! Regardless which county you live in Florida, I can help you. Read more in the next FAQ about where and how I hold the mediation sessions.

Where are the Mediation Sessions held?

I conduct mediation sessions either in my private office located in west Boca Raton or via a Zoom video session. In the video sessions, each spouse can login remotely, from the same or different locations, via phone or video. There is no difference in the quality of the mediation sessions whether held in-office or via video/phone call-in sessions.

My spouse contacted you, but I have a lot of questions. What should I do?

Often, one spouse contacts me first to inquire about my mediation services. Please understand that regardless of who contacts me first, I do not advocate for either party nor judge one spouse better or worse than the other. I am impartial and pride myself on my professionalism and neutrality. If you have any questions or concerns, or simply want more information, I am ready, willing, and able to speak with you as well. Please feel free to call/email/text me anytime.

Divorce can cost tens of thousands. What is the cost of mediation?

I understand that when you and your spouse are planning for a divorce, finances can be unpredictable. With that in mind, I offer my services for a low flat-rate fee of $2,200.00 – which includes up to ten (10) hours of face-to-face mediation time. You are both under enough stress going through a divorce and the last thing you need during a tense and emotional mediation session is to be constantly looking at your watch to see if you’re going over the next hour and will be charged for another hour of the mediator’s time. I believe you should not have to deal with any surprises about the cost of mediation and that is why I offer a flat-rate fee. Mediation is invariably far less expensive than going to court with attorneys and is designed specifically to promote agreement among the both of you and a less painful experience than a contested divorce.

Why should I choose your $2,200 flat-fee vs. an hourly rate?

Eric created a unique video blog answering your questions about the benefits of his $2,200 predictable flat-rate fee.

Please click on the following link to view Eric's video and read his blog about the benefits of his Flat-Fee pricing: Benefits of Flat-Fee Blog.

What is included in the mediation fee?

I will meet with you both and mediate all the issues necessary to file for an uncontested divorce. The mediation session(s) will include:

  • reviewing your unique circumstances;
  • tailoring the needs to meet individual and collective goals;
  • collaborating to obtain desired outcomes regarding your unique circumstances;
  • facilitating discussions about insurance, taxes, alimony, assets & debts;
  • developing a choice of options;
  • formulating and securing negotiations;
  • assisting in the division of Assets & Liabilities (Equitable Distribution);
  • aiding in decisions regarding Shared Parental Responsibility, Time-Sharing and Child Support (if there are minor children of the marriage); and
  • engaging in private short sessions (called a Caucus) to promote negotiations.

Included at no additional charge or fee is:

  • drafting and preparing of the Mediated Marital Settlement Agreement;
  • drafting and preparing of the Parenting Plan (if minor child(ren);
  • calculating and preparing of the Child Support Worksheet (if minor child(ren);
    reasonable amount of telephone and/or email communication throughout the process that is related to scheduling, explanation of the mediation process or other general issues; and
  • providing a sample set of court forms for you to review and use as a reference when you fill-out the Court’s standard set of forms used to file for the uncontested divorce.

Mediation is invariably far less expensive than going to court with attorneys and is designed specifically to promote agreement among the both of you and a less painful experience than a contested divorce.

Do you file the divorce for us with the Court?

As a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator, even though I am also an attorney, I am not permitted to complete the uncontested divorce forms on your behalf. I do provide a sample generic set of forms which give a general idea as to how the forms look when filled out.  I suggest you be very cautious about choosing any other mediator or mediation service which includes or offers to prepare and/or file the divorce forms for you and ask them if it is ethical for them do be the mediator and also to fill-out the court forms on your behalf..  

From my experience, I estimate that about 75% of couple that have mediated their divorce with me just fill out the divorce forms found on the Court’s website by themselves. It is mostly just filling-in-the-blanks. The most important part is being able to check-off the box on the forms that states you have completed mediation, and then providing the Court with the Settlement Agreement(s) that I drafted for you, and which you and your spouse have signed and notarized.

If you do not want to complete the forms yourself, I provide you with the name of an experienced attorney colleague of mine who specializes in family law and who can prepare the court forms and provide you with ready-to-file versions of the uncontested divorce forms. She also offers an optional service to file the prepared court forms and settlement agreement(s), and has the ability to request a specific - versus a random - date for the Final Hearing (held by Zoom).  As of March 2024, it is my understanding and belief that her fees for these services start at $499 and $1,200, respectively (actual fee depends upon the level of service you request/need from her and the particular County in which the divorce will be filed).

Do you take sides? How does the process remain fair?

As a mediator, I maintain strict neutrality. I never take sides nor tell either spouse that they are “wrong,” “right,” “unreasonable,” “unfair” or any other subjective opinion. I work with the couple to facilitate negotiations – always with the focus that each spouse is the ultimate decision maker. I personally mediate all matters (unlike some other mediators who may “farm-out” the mediation to independent contractors or employees). I am here to make the process as smooth and safe and trusting as possible. Divorce can be scary and uncertain.

Divorce can be scary and uncertain. Let Eric from PeacefulSplit® be your guides through this typically arduous process.

How do you handle different clients' cultures and values?

Respect for each client’s background, culture, values, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, sexual identity, country of origin, and other unique and important aspects of how each of us self-identify are extremely important to me. My years of education and experiences working with people from diverse backgrounds has instilled in me a high level of honor and sensitivity to the individual needs of people from various backgrounds. I do not judge you nor do I compare your situation or beliefs to anyone else’s. You are unique, and I respect you for being you. Mediation is about creating a process customized to the needs of each specific couple, and I focus on that goal from the very first time we speak and then meet together. If there are any particular needs that you or your spouse have with regard to the mediation process, I welcome your input and openness so that we can try to accommodate you as best as possible.

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