Texas divorce mediation can be both cost effective and expeditious
Divorce can be hard on both the divorcing parties’ emotions and their wallets. For those in Williamson County, there is an alternative to traditional divorce litigation which may ease the emotional strain of a divorce and can be more cost effective in comparison to the traditional divorce process. That alternative is mediation. The Texas Bar Association defines mediation as a common dispute resolution method used to facilitate the reaching of an out of court settlement between two parties.
Over the years, mediation has been used increasingly in divorce and custody matters since it permits the parties to make final decisions instead of leaving decisions up to the Texas courts. In a case decided last year, In re Stephanie Lee, the Supreme Court of Texas made it abundantly clear that it strongly favors encouraging mediation instead of litigation when it comes to family law matters such as those pertaining to child custody issues.
There are various benefits to mediation over traditional divorce. First, mediation can avoid a bitter contentious court room battle thereby promoting post-divorce harmony between the parties. Second, mediation may make a divorce easier on children produced by the marriage. Children often suffer emotionally as the result of a contentious divorce. Third, mediation may expedite a settlement agreement which is preferable to protracted litigation. Fourth, mediation enables the parties to make the final decisions as to property and custody issues rather than leaving them up to a court. Finally, mediation is praised for its cost effectiveness given that the cost of mediation is considerably less than the cost of traditional divorce litigation.
The actual mediator’s role is to be neutral and not represent either party to the divorce. Mediators are not allowed to give legal advice to either party. Instead, the mediator’s job is to encourage the parties to reach an agreement by helping them talk through options, think about the strengths and weaknesses of both parties’ cases, costs of litigation, benefits of settlement, etc. Some mediators are more active in the process than others depending on their personalities. Mediation is not required to produce an agreement. Indeed, in some instances, the parties simply cannot reach an agreement with each other. In that event, traditional divorce litigation is the only realistic option. If an agreement is reached during mediation, the parties will sign a binding written contract that will be enforceable in the Texas courts.
It is a good idea for the divorcing parties to each have their own attorneys who will be present during the actual mediation. This ensures that the parties’ respective interests will be protected during the process as they will have legal advice provided on every offer and option discussed. According to the American Bar Association, the attorneys for the parties play a critical role in the process. Before mediation begins, an attorney has the duty of adequately preparing the client for the mediation negotiations. The attorney does this by thoroughly explaining to the client how the mediation process works, what the negotiation strategy should be and what he or she can expect during the negotiations. Good preparation and communication makes the attorney and the client a “team” and helps alleviate any anxiety that there may be about the mediation process.
If you are considering a divorce and wonder if mediation is right for you, you should contact an attorney experienced at handling family law matters. The attorney will sit down with you, answer any questions you may have about mediation, and discuss whether or not mediation is advisable for you given your particular situation.