Mediation: What is it and how can it benefit my Texas Divorce?

Mediation: What is it and how can it benefit my Texas Divorce?

When it comes to a divorce, most people have the idea that filing a case with a court means that you will be going to court to have a judge decide the issues in your case and lay down the law as he or she sees it. This can be true, most certainly. If you and your spouse are going through a divorce or are considering filing a divorce and you cannot agree to settle on all issues in the case then a judge will play tie breaker. However, there are alternative ways to resolve a divorce. One such method is called mediation.

Divorce Mediation in Texas Examined

If you’ve never heard of mediation before or are unfamiliar with the concept we can fix that problem right now. Mediation in the context of Texas divorce cases is a process in which both parties (and if they’re represented, their attorneys as well) meet with a third party (usually an attorney) to help the parties to the divorce facilitate a settlement on as many of the issues of their case as possible. Mediation is not required in a divorce case in Texas. If the parties are able to resolve all the issues of their case without the need for mediation or the court to intervene then more power to them. However, that is not the case in most situations and mediation can help bridge the gap between the two sides.

Communication is almost always a problem for divorcing spouses. Whether it is about the kids, the household finances or both, when spouses can no longer communicate with one another a divorce will usually be not too far behind. Hiring their own attorneys is a step in the right direction towards better communication but even then the attorneys are acting as messengers of sorts for their clients and truly fruitful discussion isn’t always possible. A mediator has no “skin in the game” in that they have no interest in who ends up with what piece of property or which parent gets to choose where the kids live.

Temporary Orders Mediation

A mediator’s job depends on what point in the divorce he or she is coming in to assist with a settlement. If the parties have chosen (or have been ordered by their court) to mediate prior to a temporary orders hearing then the mediator’s main focus is getting an agreement in place in regard to temporary conservatorship/visitation/possession/access of the children first and foremost. Basically, the parties need to be able to get adjusted to living separately and seeing their children based on a schedule rather than at each other’s discretion.

Once the issue of the children is dealt with, the other focus of temporary orders mediation is determining who will be paying for what during the divorce. All of the household bills, the mortgage, school tuition, etc. need to be put in either the responsibility of husband or wife. Other issues such as child support and/or spousal support will also be negotiated upon. An important part of the mediator’s job is to help each party assess the strengths and weaknesses of each of their positions on the aforementioned issues. From personal experience I can say that some prior clients have believed themselves to be in an iron clad position of strength in a certain area despite my disagreeing with them. A benefit of attending mediation is that you as a client can get the opinion of another family law attorney who knows the law and knows the judge before whom we will be going for the temporary orders hearing.

Temporary orders mediation sets the tone for the rest of a divorce case. If you and your spouse are able to settle your case in mediation that is a good sign that the case is unlikely to see the inside of a courtroom. The agreement parties reach in mediation is usually much more personalized than anything a judge could determine. What’s more, it allows each side to get a different perspective into their case. Usually it ends up showing each party that they and their spouse are not as far apart on the issues as previously believed and that attending a contested temporary orders hearing is unlikely to result in either side being completely satisfied.

Final Orders Mediation

Once your case is settled in a temporary orders mediation, you and your spouse will have an opportunity (usually around two months or so) to get adjusted to living under a court’s order. After this period you and your soon to be ex-spouse will reconvene for final orders mediation. If both sides felt satisfied with the first mediator it is likely that you will return to that mediator’s office to see if you can finalize your divorce.

Final Orders Mediation takes into account the same issues as discussed in temporary orders mediation and then adds more “permanent” issues of the family home (if you are living in a home you own) and motor vehicles, rental properties, etc. Basically if you have to show ownership of a piece of property with a title document, you will need to get that sorted out in final orders mediation. Are you going to remain in the home? Is your spouse? Will the house be sold? How will the proceeds be split? Will you have to buy your spouse out of his interest in the home? All these questions will be debated upon until either a settlement is reached or a stalemate is declared. If a resolution cannot be reached on any issue then the parties will head to court on their scheduled trial date and a judge will play tie breaker.

Final Thoughts on Mediation

Ultimately, the court isn’t in control of your divorce nor is your attorney. You and your spouse are. The decisions you make (or refuse to make in some cases) can go a long way to determining how much time, money and effort has to be put into a divorce. Some divorces will require a judge to decide the issues. Most cases, however, can and should be settled. This saves you and your spouse money and time and allows the focus to shift towards rebuilding lives and bank account balances. What’s more, an order that is arrived at by mutual agreement is much more likely to be followed than one created by a judge that barely knows you or your spouse.

Questions on Mediation? Please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you find yourself in a situation where you are considering a divorce please contact the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We are strong proponents of mediation and the benefits that are afforded to our clients in that setting. A consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys is free of charge and we are available to meet with you six days a week.

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