Mediation is often an attractive alternative to what can be costly and time-consuming litigation for spouses seeking a divorce. As the state’s Second District Court of Appeals recently explained, a settlement agreement reached via mediation will generally be enforced by family courts.
Husband and Wife separated in 2004 after roughly 23 years of marriage. When Wife filed for divorce the following year, the couple agreed to take their case to a mediator. As a result of the mediation sessions, they reached a proposed stipulated judgment. The agreement provided for the division of the couple’s homes and other property, as well as custody and visitation rights with respect to their minor child. It also stated that Husband would pay Wife $2,000 in spousal support through August 2020. The document further stated that it was a marital settlement agreement resolving all necessary matters related to the divorce.
Nevertheless, neither Husband nor Wife ever filed the agreement with the family court. As a result, the court dismissed the case for lack of prosecution in May 2011. In the weeks that followed, Wife sought to have the case reopened so that the court could recognize the agreement and retain jurisdiction to enforce it if necessary. Wife said she had been under the impression that the mediator would file the document with the Court.