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Mediation in a Texas Family Law Case

In reality, Texas family law cases often involve a more peaceful and constructive process known as mediation. Contrary to the dramatic courtroom scene portrayed in movies, mediation offers a collaborative approach. Both parties work with a neutral mediator to resolve their disputes amicably. This process allows individuals to voice their concerns, explore options, and negotiate agreements tailored to their unique circumstances. Mediation is a cornerstone of Texas family law. It promotes communication, compromise, and mutual understanding to reach mutually beneficial solutions outside of court.

In most cases, expect mediation to resolve your family law case. Mediation involves a third-party attorney. They act as a mediator, helping you and the opposing party settle any remaining issues in your case. You, your spouse and your attorneys will go to the mediator’s office and sit in separate rooms. The mediator essentially acts as a ping pong ball. They bounce back and forth in between your room and that of your spouse to help you settle your case.

Benefits of Mediation in Family Law Cases

Judges are big fans of mediation. Number one, mediation encourages you and your spouse to work together to resolve the issues of your case. Secondly, you can achieve a better outcome more tailored to your family than what a judge might offer. This is because the judge will never understand you and your spouse as well as you do. It makes sense, then, that applying your knowledge can lead to a favorable outcome for both parties.

The other benefit of mediation is that a mediated order tends to hold up a lot better over time. Since you created the order, you’re more likely to agree with its contents and adhere to it in the future. Going to trial could result in an order that doesn’t suit either you or your spouse well. If circumstances change later on, violating the order might be the only option, leading to another court appearance.

How could your mediation be structured?

As mentioned earlier, mediation commonly involves meeting at the mediator’s office, with you in one room and your spouse in another. The mediator goes back and forth between your rooms in hopes of spurring each of you towards a settlement. It is likely that you and your spouse will not even see one another while at the mediation session.

Mediation Excludes Family and Friends

Family members and friends are typically not permitted to attend mediation. Seeing your spouse’s new love interest or a mother-in-law you’re not fond of can distract you from settling. Mediation is an opportunity for you and your lawyer to collaborate on practical solutions to your case. Relying on family members to influence negotiations can significantly sidetrack you and your attorney.

Structured mediation aims to alleviate much of the animosity and stress associated with contested hearings and trials. Being in the same room as the person you’re divorcing can distract you from the matter at hand. This can lead to focusing more on your anger or frustration. An open and honest conversations with your attorney about your case and its circumstances can be incredibly beneficial.

Empowering Role of Individuals in Mediation

Mediation is not something where your attorney will take the lead in addressing the issues. The mediator will address you directly, and your attorney will likely offer advice and perspective when needed. Many find that divorce isn’t overly complicated; they’re usually focused on determining the best possession schedule for their child or how to divide house equity for sale. As a result, you’re often fully capable of offering opinions on relevant subjects without relying on your attorney in most situations.

Finally, the mediator will likely require you to tell him or her information about the hearing that your spouse is either not aware of or is not fully aware of. If you give your mediator permission to share that information with him or her. As information starts to be freely exchanged without the presence of a judge, you’ll likely discover that settling your case becomes much easier.

Devil’s Advocacy

While you are working with the mediator to help you settle your family law case, your attorney and the mediator will be playing devil’s advocate with you on any scenario that you are negotiating with your spouse. That means that whatever position you take if there is any doubt that it is the right one for you, your attorney and the mediator will present you with an alternate reality where undesirable outcomes can result based on your decisions.

The mediator is also a licensed family law attorney and has likely spent time arguing cases in front of the judge that your case is assigned to. That means that he or she has a pretty decent idea about how the judge will rule on a particular subject. As such, you should take seriously what the mediator has to say. It is likely that he or she is basing their positions as a mediator on how the judge is likely to rule once your case gets into their courtroom.

Work with one another and you can be successful

Whenever the subject of mediation comes up, someone inevitably tells me that their spouse is the most stubborn person in the world and that reaching a successful settlement won’t be possible. They argue and fight over minor issues throughout their entire marriage, so what hope is there to settle significant issues? However, something changes once they get to mediation. Most of the time, it means their spouse becomes more willing to compromise and meet halfway on divorce-related issues.

You will likely have to concede ground on certain issues in order to gain ground in others. If you are a father who wants to spend as much time with your child as possible, you may offer more in child support in order to get that done.

Receiving an initial offer in a family law mediation

Most of the time you will not submit, nor will your spouse, the offer right off the bat that you expect to be accepted. Low ball offers are commonplace at the outset of mediation and then tend to get more reasonable as time passes. You cannot, however, use that low-ball offer to taint all of their remaining settlement offers that are made to you. Keep in mind that as you proceed forward both you and your spouse will become more willing to concede points to the other as time goes on.

What happens in mediation stays in mediation

Settlement negotiations that take place in a mediation session are kept confidential unless otherwise indicated to the mediator by your or your spouse. Expect that your spouse will not be offering you the generous settlement offers in the trial that was made in the prior week. You cannot use a mediation settlement offer against your opposing party in order to force her to increase what she is offering you. Likewise, if you are the party who made the extremely reasonable settlement offer in mediation, you are not expected to pick up where you left off in mediation as far as that settlement offer is concerned.

There’s (basically) no going back once you settle your case in mediation

Mediated Settlement Agreements (MSA) are irrevocable. You and your spouse will have been working together for hours on end to settle your case in mediation. It would be a bitter pill to swallow if, the morning after mediation ends, one of you could simply call your attorney and declare that you are no longer interested in the settlement agreement.

An MSA is a document that will serve as the basis for drafting your final orders. You and your spouse are expected to follow the contents of the order until a later court modifies it. With that said, how can you be sure that you have an agreement in place that is worth accepting in order to end the divorce? The bottom line is that you have to be able to live with for the near future. It is very unlikely that you will get everything that you want out of your divorce settlement. However, remember that the same applies to your spouse as well.

I advise clients to break down your list of goals into needs and wants. We have a few non-negotiables that will require stringent negotiation. Then you have a longer list of things that you care about but are not willing to have them push your case into a trial or contested hearing. Working with your spouse to settle your case is an excellent way to eliminate the need for a needlessly long divorce case and the associated stresses.

Do not judge a book by its cover when it comes to Mediated Settlement Agreements

A lot of times what you see in a Mediated Settlement Agreement can fool you if you are unaware of the other circumstances in your case. Looking at an agreement and deciding that a person could have done better is not fair since there is a lot of circumstances that are in play for every divorce that could lead you to believe that a different outcome was possible.

Keep in mind that meditation allows you to keep your private affairs private. A trial will cause you to put your dirty laundry out on the line for everyone to see. This holds an invaluable importance that cannot be quantified solely in terms of dollars and cents. Furthermore, while the mediator charges a fee for attending mediation, it is significantly less than what you would pay your attorney for a trial.

As long as the judge generally believes that the mediated settlement agreement and the orders drafted from that agreement are in the best interest of the children, the judge is likely to approve the drafted orders. This allows you and your spouse to put your fingerprints all over your case and personalize it to the greatest extent possible.

Conclusion

Texas family law mediation serves as a beacon of hope for families navigating challenging legal matters. As an alternative to contentious courtroom battles, mediation fosters open dialogue, empowers individuals to participate in decision-making, and promotes the preservation of important relationships. By embracing the principles of cooperation and compromise, parties can often find creative solutions that prioritize the well-being of all involved. As a vital component of the legal landscape, mediation offers a path toward resolution, understanding, and a brighter future for families across the Lone Star State.

Divorce and child custody trials- tomorrow’s subject matter

If you are unable to settle your family law case then the last step in a case is to attend a trial. Tomorrow’s blog post will detail the preparation for a trial and will cover what to expect in the trial itself.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about family law cases, in general, please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys provide free consultations six days a week, where you can have your questions answered in a comfortable and pressure-free environment. We take a great deal of pride in being able to help people just like you who live and work in our community.

Our attorneys are experienced in handling cases in all family courts across southeast Texas. We will address your concerns head-on and talk to you about how we can best help you and your family. We understand how difficult family law cases can be and are here to assist you and advocate on your behalf. Thank you for your time and consideration.

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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it’s important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our divorce lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, KingwoodTomballThe Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris CountyMontgomery CountyLiberty County, Chambers CountyGalveston CountyBrazoria CountyFort Bend County and Waller County.

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