CORAL SPRINGS – Attorney Scott Stadler, who was recently certified as a family law mediator by the Florida Supreme Court, believes it's better for couples to hash out the details of divorce proceedings long before a judge can have the final say.
"Mediation is mandatory and required to be held prior to trial," Stadler told the Florida Record. "The better course of action is to mediate a case as early as possible."
If successful, Stadler says mediation can save clients "tens of thousands of dollars."
"If mediation were to take eight hours from start to finish, and each attorney charged their client $325 per hour, and the mediator charged $275 per hour, eight hours would equal $7,400," he said. "If the case settled within the eight-hour time frame, each party would theoretically have paid $3,700 that day to complete their case."
By comparison, if mediation is unsuccessful, then preparations for trial would take place.
"An average case would take between 20 to 50 hours of attorney time from the beginning of the case through trial," Stadler said. "That would be $6,500 to $16,250 for each party, after the cost of mediation is paid."
In this example, mediation could effectively save the client as much as $2,800 to $12,550, the Coral Spring attorney said.
Stadler believes in proactive solutions to divorce. He works with and encourages his clients to "think through possible outcomes of the case and determine whether they are realistically possible before you get to mediation or trial."
One key issue that may arise for many clients is the retention of the marital home.
"I would recommend that prior to settlement discussions, the client meet with a mortgage broker and submit an application to the underwriter for conditional approval," Stadler said. "If the client can realistically meet the conditional requirements, then we are ready to discuss this as a settlement option. If the client is unable to qualify for a new loan, then I would recommend a real estate appraisal be used to determine a list price for sale to a third party."
A graduate of the Thomas M. Cooley School of Law in Lansing, Michigan, Stadler's experience in mediation spans his more than 26 years as an attorney. Since his recent certification, he has already mediated approximately 20 cases. He also works in a wide range of divorce-related issues including, but not limited to, paternity, custody, child support and domestic violence.
Stadler practiced law in Michigan for five years before returning to Florida. When asked why he chose to return to Florida, he responded by saying, "I grew up in Florida. Home is where the heart is!"