Family Law Mediation
Family law mediation and arbitration are becoming increasingly popular as methods of dispute resolution. Arbitration, a form of an alternative dispute resolution, is less expensive than court litigation and is faster as well. Mediation provides the parties involved with an opportunity to have more input in the final decision, as they are resolving the issues themselves rather than having a judge, jury or an arbitrator make the decisions for them.
Divorce or other family law matters involving children (such as custody and visitation) are prime candidates for the mediation process, as it allows the mother and
father to be more involved in the decision-making process and can be less stressful for the child involved. Mediation works most of the time. If you have a family law matter that needs to be resolved and you are wary of entering into public court litigation, arbitration and mediation may be the right choice for you.
The things that a mediator can and cannot do during the process are stated in the law and the specifics of divorce mediation are found in Texas Family Code §6.602. A mediator can work along with both individuals to find a resolution that will be put in legally binding terms. It must be signed by both individuals and the attorney in order to be valid.
Overview of the Mediation Process
Necessary to all cases of divorce mediation is the need for a mediator – a task that is often completed by the parties involved in the divorce process; however, when mediation is court-ordered a divorcing couple could be appointed a mediator specifically by the courts. Responsible for overseeing the logistics of the divorce itself, a mediator's job is often best carried out by a qualified lawyer. Under the representation of an attorney acting as your mediator, you can rest assured that your divorce will be aimed not at determining who is right or wrong in the matter, but instead on how to mutually resolve any disputes that may arise during the process and settle on the matters at hand in a way that is amenable to both parties.
Unlike a case that is brought to trial, you will not need to do much preparation prior to mediation. Instead, the process usually begins with a general caucus in which both parties meet with the mediator in one room and an agreement to mediate is made. Of significant importance at this time will be an agreement from both sides of the divorcing party to keep the discussion of the mediation confidential. Disclosure of information to anyone outside of the mediation room will need to be agreed upon by both parties prior to the end of the mediation session. Even the mediator is required to agree to such confidentiality.
During the mediation, each party of the divorce is legally entitled to bring along a representative on their behalf. Represented by a lawyer, you stand the best chances of successfully carrying out your mediation to completion. It is important to note that sessions of mediation are not required to end only after an agreement has been reached. In fact, some mediations end without an agreement or settlement established at all. When this is the case, the mediator will very likely make attempts at encouragement to continue the process at a later date and time.
When settlement is reached during mediation, you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse will be asked to sign a settlement officially recognizing the agreement. The written settlement that is established at this time will serve as both an agreement and a contract between the parties involved in the mediation. As such, it will be enforceable by law and expected to be abided. In most cases, the parties of a mediation session will never need to put their session on record, as they can simply refer to the document / settlement agreement that is established during the mediation if any future questions or issues arise.
Court Ordered Mediation
In many family law cases, mediation is mandatory and ordered by the judge, however, a couple can choose to go this route on their own as well. Even after divorce is final, many divorce decrees require mediation in order to resolve issues related to
visitation, or other family law matters. A judge may order mediation, in which case the involved parties are obligated to go through the process. If issues arise during the process such as violence, mediation may not be substantial enough to carry through the divorce to completion.