(a)   Referral by Presiding Judge or by Stipulation. Except as hereinafter provided or as otherwise prohibited by law, the presiding judge may enter an order referring all or any part of a contested civil matter to mediation or arbitration. The parties to any contested civil matter may file a written stipulation to mediate or arbitrate any issue between them at any time. The order of referral or written stipulation may provide for mediation or arbitration to be conducted in person, through the use of communication technology as that term is defined in Florida Rule of General Practice and Judicial Administration 2.530, or by 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.

(1)    Conference or Hearing Date. Unless otherwise ordered by the court, the first mediation conference or arbitration hearing must be held within 60 days of the order of referral.

(2)    Notice. Within 15 days after the designation of the mediator or the arbitrator, the court or its designee, who may be the mediator or the chief arbitrator, must notify the parties in writing of the date, the time, and, as applicable, the place of the conference or hearing and the instructions for access to communication technology that will be used for the conference or hearing, unless the order of referral, other order of the court or written stipulation specifies this information.

(b)   Motion to Dispense with Mediation and Arbitration. A party may move, within 15 days after the order of referral, to dispense with mediation or arbitration, if:

(1)    the issue to be considered has been previously mediated or arbitrated between the same parties pursuant to Florida law;

(2)    the issue presents a question of law only;

(3)    the order violates rule 1.710(b) or rule 1.800; or

(4)    other good cause is shown.

(c)   Motion to Defer Mediation or Arbitration. Within 15 days of the order of referral, any party may file a motion with the court to defer the proceeding. The movant shall set the motion to defer for hearing prior to the scheduled date for mediation or arbitration. Notice of the hearing shall be provided to all interested parties, including any mediator or arbitrator who has been appointed. The motion shall set forth, in detail, the facts and circumstances supporting the motion. Mediation or arbitration shall be tolled until disposition of the motion.

(d)   Disqualification of a Mediator or Arbitrator. Any party may move to enter an order disqualifying a mediator or an arbitrator for good cause. If the court rules that a mediator or arbitrator is disqualified from hearing a case, an order shall be entered setting forth the name of a qualified replacement. Nothing in this provision shall preclude mediators or arbitrators from disqualifying themselves or refusing any assignment. The time for mediation or arbitration shall be tolled during any periods in which a motion to disqualify is pending.