Mediation: the hidden gem of Texas family law

A family law case means giving up your life to a judge, right? In a divorce, your property and your relationship with your children are ruled on by a judge. Involved in a child custody case? Then be prepared for having parenting orders handed down by a stranger in a black robe. Are these statements accurate? For many people entering into a family law case, they are assumed to be. That is the rumor circling the family law world. Judges decide everything and people are powerless. If that’s how it is, why bother to even put any effort into the case? Just submit your evidence via mail and let the jail send you a decision back. 

As a result of this line of thinking many family law parties begin their case with a defeatist attitude. Why bother even trying to participate in the case? All that happens is the judge ends up making the decisions for you, right? Wrong. That is not how your family law case is likely to come down. Rather, you and your opposing party hold all the cards in working together to resolve your conflict. It won’t be easy, but it is up to you. 

Here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we prize the ability to help our clients resolve issues amicably. Join us today as we discuss the hidden gem of family law- mediation.

What is mediation?

Mediation is allowing a third-party mediator to oversee formal settlement negotiations between you and your opposing party. These formal settlement negotiations are either half or full-day sessions. Typically, mediation occurs at the office of your mediator. The mediator will have you in one room and your opposing party in the other. From there, the mediator acts like a ping-pong ball bouncing back and forth between your rooms. After mediation, the aspiration is that a settlement will be reached. 

Just that easy, right? Not so fast. There is a lot that goes into mediation. From preparation to selecting the right mediator for your case, the Law Office of Bryan Fagan prepares our clients for mediation daily. Our attorneys understand the importance of mediation in a client’s case. Contact one of our experienced family law attorneys to discuss your case with us. We offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week.

Differences between mediation and arbitration

arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution process where two parties and their attorneys present a case to a neutral person. This neutral person is known as an arbitrator. The arbitrator would then decide about your case that is binding on the parties. The key difference between mediation and arbitration is that an arbitrator makes the decisions on resolution for the parties. Whereas in mediation the mediator only helps facilitate a discussion.

Why mediation is important

Without a doubt, the most prevalent notion about family law cases is that they involve fighting. We have all seen movies and television shows about divorce and child custody cases. One of the most prevalent themes in those shows is acrimony between parties. Parents fighting with each other. Children fighting with parents. Spouses fighting with one another. All the drama that we see in our lives daily in the home is brought to the family court. Indeed, many of our personal lives are not as tranquil as we would like.

There is some degree of disagreement and differences of opinion in family law cases. To say otherwise would be to be less than truthful. However, many family law cases do not involve nearly the amount of discord as you may have been led to believe. Many family law cases are fairly straightforward and lack the drama of even a basic television show.

One of the major reasons why family law cases in Texas are less dramatic is due to mediation. Mediation allows parties like you to submit to a process that values cohesion and negotiation. There is certainly room for argument in mediation. However, those arguments are typically more productive and unproductive. There is a set goal in mediation to settle the case. There are also deadlines associated with mediation.

Benefits to mediation

Mediation is not something that requires a great deal of money or a huge time commitment. This is opposed to going to court for temporary orders hearing or trial. In those circumstances, you are committing to paying your attorney to be with you in court for multiple days in some circumstances. There is also the time commitment involved in going to the courthouse and spending time in a hearing. Mediation is much shorter than a hearing and does not require a monetary commitment.

The setting of mediation is also more comfortable for most people. Very few people involved in a family law case look forward to going to court. It is a strange environment for those of you who have never been to a courthouse before. This contrasts with a mediation session that occurs in an office environment. The feeling of mediation is also much less formal. This usually puts people at ease and helps promote a more comforting environment.

The settlement reached in mediation is just as enforceable as a judge’s orders. The main difference is being able to arrive at these orders yourself rather than having to pay a judge to do so.

Selecting a mediator

in reality, you will not be aware of many family law mediators before your family law case. It would be odd, for example, if you knew a handful of family law mediators just from your daily life. For that reason, most people rely upon their attorney to make recommendations on what mediator to use. From there, you would need to decide on the handful of mediators recommended by your lawyer. Factors like cost, location, and experience of the mediator are all relevant to consider.

Once you and your attorney have selected your choice of mediator you would submit that name to your opposing party. Once an agreement can be had on a mediator you would select a date and time to appear at mediation. Scheduling mediation is important. You will want to schedule mediation before a major hearing date like temporary orders or a trial. If a mediator cannot be agreed to between you and your opposing party then a judge would play tiebreaker.

Since selecting the right mediator is so important it is crucial to hire an attorney who has experience with multiple mediators. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Have the experience you need to choose from the best mediators in Texas. Mediation is the difference between settling a case and proceeding to trial. Contact us to learn more about the mediation process in Texas.

The importance of deadlines in a mediation case

Many years ago, a fellow family law attorney casually mentioned something quite profound. More than anything, this was an observation of his. This gentleman observed that deadlines spur action. The way we approach a problem is different when we know there is a deadline attached to it. For instance, if you gave yourself the goal of losing 15 pounds you may not attack that goal all that hard. On the other hand, if you gave yourself the goal of losing 15 pounds in three months you would likely approach the goal differently.

It does not take an expert in logic to understand the reason why. When you attach a hard deadline to something the likelihood that you achieved the goal increases. This is because you know that time is limited. That mindset allows you to focus your attention more on important matters. You are less concerned with side matters that are less important and inconsequential.

Mediation in and of itself already presents you with a focused opportunity to achieve goals. Instead of having your attention diverted, mediation forces you to focus on the task at hand. Couple that with deadlines that are attached to mediation, and you know that all of your actions need to be geared towards achieving a certain goal.

What are the deadlines that are important in mediation?

There are two types of mediation in a Texas family law case. The first is temporary order mediation. Temporary orders occur almost immediately after a petition is filed. These orders provide you and your opposing party with ground rules for your family law case. Temporary orders can be negotiated upon and settled by you and your opposing party. Or the two of you may need to attend a temporary orders hearing. In that hearing, a judge would listen to testimony and consider other evidence. It is the judge who would issue orders that become temporary orders.

However, mediation allows you and your opposing party to focus your attention on the task at hand. Typically, a temporary orders mediation is set only a few days before the scheduled temporary orders hearing. This is intentional. Everyone in that mediation understands that if you cannot settle your case there it is likely a hearing will occur. Trips to the courthouse cost money and take time. Plus, a family court judge is less capable of coming up with fair orders in your case than you and your opposing party.

Final orders mediation

The other type of deadline for a family law case that impacts mediation involves a trial. After a child custody or divorce case at trial, they become necessary. This is true when you and your opposing party are unable to settle any outstanding issues. The same rule for temporary orders mediation applies to final orders mediation. Namely, everyone would prefer to avoid a trial if a reasonable settlement can be reached in mediation.

An advantage that you and your opposing party have in final orders mediation is that your temporary orders act as a guide. The guidance provided in temporary orders mediation tends to cause the final order to look very similar. This means that if you are successful at mediating for temporary orders then you have a high likelihood of being successful in mediating for final orders. Of course, proper preparation for mediation is important. Without that preparation, mediation will not be as fruitful.

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are experienced at helping you to take advantage of the opportunities presented to you in mediation. We offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week where your questions can be answered in a friendly and hospitable manner. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Preparing for mediation

To the untrained eye, mediation may not seem like something you have to do all that much to prepare for. After all, does that mediation involve sitting in one spot with your attorney for multiple hours in a row? Wouldn’t this mean that you could simply prepare for mediation while you are still at mediation? The answer to this question is no. Unless you want mediation to be unproductive it is best to prepare for mediation beforehand.

One of the major concerns that people have going to court is the need to testify in front of other people. Very few of us are skilled at speaking in public and fewer still are excited at the idea of doing so. At the same time, simply going into someplace strange like the courthouse also makes that process uncomfortable. As a result, mediation is seen as a much better place to be able to present evidence.

The nice part about mediation is that you do not need to testify about anything there. You are not placed under oath. The contents of your settlement negotiations are not made public. However, it is still worthwhile to prepare for mediation. Do not assume that you will get a second chance to negotiate these matters. Rather, prepare for mediation as if it will be your last and best opportunity to conclude your family law matter. Here are some helpful pieces of information on how you can do just that.

Begin to collect documents

In an age where nearly everything is digital, having documentary proof of things is helpful in mediation. For instance, if you are going through a divorce then having documents related to your financial accounts is worthwhile to have in mediation. Your most recent account balances are a must. From there, you can also prepare for mediation by having a breakdown of how much of your account is community property versus separate property. Help your argument by being able to show that the math on these breakdowns is accurate.

In child custody matters coming up with a custody breakdown is important. The specific parenting schedule is something that many families overlook as far as importance is concerned. Do not rely upon a mediator to have all of this thought out for you. Rather, begin by keeping up with these subjects along with your co-parent. Having a calendar available is a handy tool to have at your disposal. Sometimes an online calendar that you both can update throughout mediation is worthwhile as well. 

Finally, in matters related to community property division come prepared with title and purchase documents. Being prepared with these documents assists with strengthening your argument as to the community or separate property nature of various items. Not coming with documents to support your position puts you at a great disadvantage. Your spouse is less likely to negotiate with you when he or she does not understand where your numbers are coming from.

The mediated settlement agreement

Preferably, a settlement is reached in your case at the end of mediation. This means that any outstanding issues in your case have been settled. You would not need to attend a hearing or trial after this point. The settlements reached in your case would be memorialized within a mediated settlement agreement. The mediated settlement agreement is drafted by the mediator.

You and your attorney need to review the mediated settlement agreement before the conclusion of mediation. Any discrepancies between the settlement that you thought you reached and what is contained in the mediated settlement agreement need to be discussed. The agreement cannot be altered the following day for example. As a result, verifying with the mediator what has been agreed to is critical. Having an eye for detail is a helpful skill to bring into mediation.

The mediated settlement agreement is then turned into either a temporary orders or a final order in your family law case. The settlement agreement is not drafted as a final product. Rather, the attorneys in your case will use that settlement agreement to draft final orders. As a result, do not expect the mediation to be the true last step in your case. There is still work to be done by you, your opposing party, and the attorneys in your case.

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan    

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. Interested in learning more about how your family is impacted by the material in this blog post? Contact us today.

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