Monday, December 18, 2006

“Go Directly To Jail; Do Not Pass Go; Do Not Collect $200.00!”

What does The Monopoly Game have to do with mediation? Nothing actually, although the case of Higgins v. Higgins, 2006 Fla. App. LEXIS 20867 [Fla. 2nd DCA 2006] is illustrative of the relationship between being jailed by a trial judge who later orders the same party to mediation [on the very same day, no less]!

The former wife in this post divorce case was held in direct criminal contempt of court during a hearing, summarily sentenced to jail for 6 months, actually jailed and then returned to court later the same day when the same judge ordered her and her former husband to mediation in the office of the court mediation program. Any problems that you see so far?

Okay, how about prior to ordering the parties [who were pro se] to mediation the judge had announced to the former wife that her attempt to relocate with the parties’ minor child was barred by court order [which it wasn’t] and unlawful and that was one of the reasons for the contempt conviction? It’s not getting better, is it?!?

As a result of the mediation, the parties signed a document entitled “Order” as did the “Mediator[,] Preparer of Order of Court.” [Mediators as “Guardians of the Process” - o.k.; mediators as “Agents of Reality” - o.k.; but mediators as “Preparers of Order of Court” - not o.k.] This order transferred custody of the minor child from the mother to the father. You guessed it, the former wife/mother appealed the order of contempt and the order modifying custody.

How significant were the “highly coercive circumstances”, devised by the trial judge, to the appellate court which reversed the trial judge. The wheels of justice don’t move so quickly [what else is new?!?] – the hearing was held in January, 2006 and this appellate decision was issued in December, 2006.

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