Getting divorced involves making a lot of important decisions that will impact your future, including but not limited to:
- The division of assets and debts
- Spousal maintenance (alimony)
- Child support
- Child custody/visitation
Rather than engage in litigation, divorcing couples sometimes settle these issues through mediation. Below, we will discuss why courts encourage (and refer) couples to mediate, what you can expect in the process, and how mediation can be beneficial to you.
Texas Alternative Dispute Resolution Act
According to Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 154.002, the state’s policy is to “encourage the peaceable resolution of disputes”, especially in matters involving child custody or support, conservatorship, and “the early settlement of pending litigation through voluntary settlement procedures.” Because of this Act, courts can refer a case, on their own accord or after a motion is filed by either party, to alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
Amongst the recognized ADR methods (i.e. non-binding arbitration, mini-trial, early neutral evaluation), divorce mediation involves a neutral, third-party (a mediator) guiding and structuring the conversations and negotiations between both parties. With the help of a mediator, divorcing couples can reach an agreement more amicably.
It is important to note that mediators:
Cannot force either party to make settlement decisions
Cannot advise either party on the best options for their financial obligations or matters relating to their children
Must adhere to state ethical guidelines outlined in the Texas State Bar ADR section
Must have completed at least 40 hours of ADR training and an additional 24 hours of family law, childhood development, and family dynamics training
The Mediation Process
Rather than going to court, couples may opt to participate in mediation. Acourt can refer divorce cases to mediation either by their own accord or at the request of either party. After a case has been referred to mediation, both parties will need to select and agree on a mediator.
Within 45 days of the court referral, mediation should begin. To prepare for mediation, you and your attorney can:
Create a list of your marital and separate property
Gather needed documents, such as tax forms, employment records, etc.
Strategize possible solutions
Discuss your key interests and goals
During mediation, the goal is to reach a settlement agreement. Each party can retain a divorce attorney during mediation meetings, which can help with the negotiation process through the course of multiple mediation sessions. It is in your best interest to have an attorney present, as they act as an advocate for you. While mediation is intended to be an amicable process, you still want to ensure you walk away with your future as secure as possible., So keep in mind that the mediator’s job isn’t the act in the best interest of either party, but to preside over the meetings as an unbiased, third-party neutral.
If you cannot reach an agreement, the case will move to trial. However, if mediation is successful, both parties will sign and file a binding, irrevocable Mediated Settlement Agreement that outlines all the agreed terms and obligations from the mediation session(s).
Why You Might Consider Mediation
As mentioned, divorce mediation is a good idea for couples who want to reduce the stress and tension associated with litigation. Mediation can benefit divorcing couples as the process:
Is confidential. While litigation means that your divorce records will be publicly accessible, mediation sessions are entirely confidential.
Is less expensive than litigation. Mediation can often save divorcing couples a lot of money as they eliminated a lot of attorney and litigation fees associated with court hearings.
Is less emotionally and mentally taxing for those involved. While courtroom battles can involve harsh words and tension, mediators help preserve the relationship between both parties by fostering healthy communication. Many couples with children opt to participate in mediation as mediation can also alleviate some of the stress a trial has on families.
Allows both parties to feel seen and heard. Mediators are trained to encourage compromise and healthy discussion, which allows for each party to share their concerns and opinions.
Allows for more unique, creative solutions to be found. Mediation invites both parties to explore a variety of options to reach an agreement. Rather than relying on a judge’s decision, divorcing couples have autonomy when it comes to finding solutions.
Decreases delays. Court proceedings can be dragged out and time-consuming. While mediation can be beneficial for those with a busy schedule, it also expedites the divorce process.
Contact Our Divorce Attorneys Today
At Hembree Bell Law Firm, PLLC, we can help you seek a peaceful resolution for your divorce. As you begin this new chapter of your life, our attorneys can work tirelessly to ensure that you, your family, and/or your assets are protected.
Looking for a divorce attorney or considering mediation? Reach out to us online or at (512) 768-9737 to learn more about how we can best support you.