For parties seeking an alternative route for divorce, mediation is the best option. However, the high price tag associated with mediation can create a roadblock. I recently had the opportunity to meet with Lilliana Real, a Mediator I strongly recommend to my clients and colleagues. We had a candid discussion as to why she is launching this service and why it is so needed in our community.
Q: Can you tell me a little about yourself?
I am a family attorney for the past 9 years and I have been a Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator for the past 5 years, since 2009. I am also certified in Appellate Mediation since 2011. I was a Supreme Court Certified Civil Mediator from 2004 until 2009 (when I purposely allowed it to lapse to focus on family mediations). Before that I worked as a mediator for Florida Mediation Group handling civil mediations. I have been practicing law for 19 years.
Q: What exciting news do you have for this year?
Starting in 2015, I am offering mediations for $99 per hour due to what I believe is an overwhelming need for affordable mediation. These $99 per hour mediations are available for clients who have attorneys, as well as those without legal representation; these can be done post-filing or pre-suit.
Q: What factors led you to make this decision?
There are many family law cases where the parties are not willing or able to pay traditional mediation fees of $200-$450 per hour. Yet, the only alternative of an in-house or court mediation, which is only $60 per hour, is not always a good fit for certain family law cases. In-house or court mediations, which are typically limited to 2 to 4 hours, result in agreements that are not extensive due to insufficient time to delve into the issues.
The time limits and less complex agreements are not adequate when there are layered issues involved, such as child parenting plans or financial issues, that cannot be addressed in the short time frame and/or brief agreement.
Regardless of the reason, mediation is dispensed with altogether since the parties cannot afford a private mediator, and the in-house or court mediation is not a good option. The result is that the case does not settle or they go straight to trial.
Q. How does this fill a need?
As previously mentioned, there are family law cases where the parties cannot pay the traditional private mediation fees or the case is not a good fit for in-house mediation. A case may not be a good match if it requires a longer and more extensive mediation session or is not going to be served by a very abbreviated mediated agreement.
In my experience, I realized there was a need for parties who did not care for the terms listed above, yet still wanted mediation because of assets or complicated child issues. I wanted to be the “Target Store” of mediation; the dignified, but less-expensive option.
Q. Tell me about those you wish to serve in this capacity?
Those families who want to make smart choices about their families by reaching a settlement to avoid litigation, but do not want to spend a great deal of money arriving at that settlement. Families that are dedicated to maintaining control of their process are those I wish to serve.
Q. What do you think has prevented attorneys from doing something like this in the past?
We all have good intentions. Attorneys work for the client and we rally for their needs. Mediation requires a paradigm shift that takes time to make. We have to be more educative and open to the clients making their own decisions. When we are advocating for a client, sometimes it is hard to remember that while we are running our law practices.
To learn more about $99 per hour mediation, visit www.lillianareal.com. What have your experiences been with mediation? Is this affordable mediation service of interest to you?
Jennifer Failla, CDFA™
Principal, Strada Wealth Management
Toll Free: 866.526.7098