Since I began practicing family law, most clients and potential clients that I have had the opportunity to work with have believed that a judge will decide their divorce case. It could be that they’ve heard stories from friends and family who have had long, drawn-out divorces where a judge did have to intercede when the parties themselves could not agree to settle their issues outside of court.
The other thing that I’ve often thought was that television and movies have for so long made the “courtroom drama” of a heated trial the centerpiece of so many plots. This is understandable. There is nothing all that exciting or tension-filled about negotiating towards a settlement.
I’ll tell you one thing that negotiations are, though: smart. Negotiating with your soon-to-be ex-spouse about the critical issues in your case is the most intelligent decision either of you can make.
Now, I fully understand that you are probably upset with the opposing party in your divorce. They are “costing” you money, time, and stress. You may believe that they are putting your children through a tough time that could have been avoided. The fact that you have to sit in the room with a lawyer and discuss splitting your life in two and losing time with your children may make your blood boil.
However, negotiations more often than not lead to settlements that can avoid going to trial and having a judge (who doesn’t know your family at all) make decisions for you that will affect your lives for years to come.
An explanation of what mediation means for you and your family
It’s straightforward to think that your spouse is the most stubborn, insufferable person on the planet when going through a divorce. I completely understand that. However, it may shock you to learn that the vast majority (I would estimate it at 90-95% of divorce cases) do not proceed to a trial and instead settle in mediation.
Mediation is formalized negotiation session in which you and your attorney and your spouse and their attorney meet with either a court-appointed mediator/attorney or one mutually agreed to by you and your spouse. The purpose of this meeting is to have the mediator work with you and your spouse to negotiate and settle your divorce rather than proceed to a contested hearing with the judge.
Mediation is often court-mandated before a final trial and temporary orders hearing. The mediator often is a licensed attorney who practices family law on their own time and works as a mediator to help others settle their divorce cases. Mediation is effective in helping to bring you and your spouse together on the essential issues of your case.
So much of settlement negotiations are coming up with creative problem-solving techniques and solutions that will assist your family in moving on to the next phase in your life. Suppose there are complications regarding visitation or conservatorship rights that have not quite been fine-tuned yet. In that case, a mediator can intercede and bring their own experiences to the table to assist with a solution.
Likewise, if there is a complicated issue in your community estate- a business needs to be divided up. The problems inherent in that scenario can also be worked on with little to no anger.
The fact of the matter is that you and your spouse will not be face to face in this setting. Instead, you will be in separate rooms with your attorney. Your mediator will act as a “ping pong ball” bouncing back and forth between both rooms to communicate offers and counter-offers.
This is especially helpful if you know going in that the level of animosity between you and your spouse is high. That doesn’t mean that you both can’t get past those emotions to settle your case. It just means that if you had to negotiate in the same room, a cross look across the table from your spouse to you could send the negotiation session into turmoil and ruin any chance of a settlement.
Additional benefits of mediation: A flexible schedule and direct control over what is decided
Mediation schedules are typically four hours long, though more complex cases can necessitate full-day mediations. You and your spouse will pay a fee towards the mediator’s services, but the payment will pale compared to the costs of preparing for and attending a contested hearing or trial.
This flexibility in time allows you to take your time in arriving at solutions. Often mediators will allow you and your spouse to return at a reduced rate to wrap up negotiations and may even waive their fee if you are very close to settling.
Perhaps the most important aspect of mediation, in terms of an advantage for your family, is that mediation offers the sort of direct control over the process and settlement that a trial does not. Ultimately you are working to determine the final orders in your case state.
These are the ground rules for the rest of your children’s lives before graduating from high school and how your property, debts, and other financial assets will be divided upon divorce. Having a say in the process is incredibly important, even if you don’t get precisely what you ask. In a trial, you may get just what you want, but the odds are greater that neither you nor your spouse will walk out of a prosecution happy.
A judge intends to do their best, but with limited time and resources, they will need to make decisions that often conflict with your family’s individual needs.
A mediated settlement agreement is final and binding. That means you nor your spouse can wake up the following morning after settling and tell your attorney you’re having second thoughts. As long as you understand this and are comfortable with that concept, mediation is a terrific way to end a divorce that can be described as anything but superb.
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC: Advocates for southeast Texas families
If you have any questions about divorce, mediation, or family law in general, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We represent clients across southeast Texas and would be honored to do the same for you and your family. Please get in touch with us today to set up a free-of-charge consultation where your questions can be answered.
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