(a) Applicability. This rule governs mediation of family matters and related issues.
(b) Referral. Except as provided by law and this rule, all contested family matters and issues may be referred to mediation. Every effort must be made to expedite mediation of family issues. Such referral, or written stipulation of the parties, may provide for mediation or arbitration in person, remotely via audio or audio- video communication technology, or a combination thereof. Absent direction in the order of referral, mediation or arbitration must be conducted in person, unless the parties stipulate or the court, on its own motion or on motion by a party, otherwise orders that the proceeding be conducted by communication technology or by a combination of communication technology and in-person participation.
(c) Limitation on Referral to Mediation. Unless otherwise agreed by the parties, family matters and issues may be referred to a mediator or mediation program which charges a fee only after the court has determined that the parties have the financial ability to pay such a fee. This determination may be based upon the parties’ financial affidavits or other financial information available to the court. When the mediator’s fee is not established under section 44.108, Florida Statutes, or when there is no written agreement providing for the mediator’s compensation, the mediator shall be compensated at an hourly rate set by the presiding judge in the referral order. The presiding judge may also determine the reasonableness of the fees charged by the mediator. When appropriate, the court shall apportion mediation fees between the parties and shall state each party’s share in the order of referral. Parties may object to the rate of the mediator’s compensation within 15 days of the order of referral by serving an objection on all other parties and the mediator.
(d) Appearances. A party is deemed to appear if the named party is physically present at the mediation conference or, if permitted by court order or written stipulation of the parties, present via communication technology. In the discretion of the mediator and with the agreement of the parties, family mediation may proceed in the absence of counsel unless otherwise ordered by the court.
(e) Completion of Mediation. Mediation shall be completed within 75 days of the first mediation conference unless otherwise ordered by the court.
(f) Report on Mediation.
(1) If agreement is reached as to any matter or issue, including legal or factual issues to be determined by the court, the agreement shall be reduced to writing, signed by the parties and submitted to the court unless the parties agree otherwise. By stipulation of the parties, the agreement may be electronically or stenographically recorded and made under oath or affirmed. In such event, an appropriately signed transcript may be filed with the court. Signatures may be original, electronic, or facsimile, and may be in counterparts.
(2) After the agreement is filed, the court shall take action as required by law. When court approval is not necessary, the agreement shall become binding upon filing. When court approval is necessary, the agreement shall become binding upon approval. In either event, the agreement shall be made part of the final judgment or order in the case.
(3) If the parties do not reach an agreement as to any matter as a result of mediation, the mediator shall report the lack of an agreement to the court without comment or recommendation. With the consent of the parties, the mediator’s report may also identify any pending motions or outstanding legal issues, discovery process, or other action by any party which, if resolved or completed, would facilitate the possibility of a settlement.