The Florida Supreme Court on Monday told state judges to assign future foreclosure cases to managed mediation.

Managed mediation relies on trained negotiators to hear disputes between lenders and home owners. The process requires a single session, lasts less than three hours, and costs $750.

Theoretically it will help resolve cases sooner and in doing so help us to move cases along, said Pinellas-Pasco counties chief civil Judge Thomas McGrady, whose office has been assigned more than 23,000 pending foreclosure cases.

The Collins Center for Public Policy, a nonprofit, runs mediation for three of Florida's 20 judicial circuits. It will add McGrady's caseload next month.

Collins Center says home owners can refuse the mediation option and about half do. Of those who choose mediation, 65 percent reach settlements with their lenders. Most of the settled cases involved an interest rate reduction and postponed payments. Lenders have to pay the $750 unless mediation fails and they proceed with foreclosure.

Source: South Florida Business Journal, Susan R. Miller (12/28/2009)