Divorce Mediation in Texas

Divorce Mediation in Texas

Mediation is essentially a negotiation, with the help of a neutral (impartial) third party. Unlike arbitration (which is like a trial), in mediation the third party doesn’t make a decision. Instead, the mediator tries to help the parties reach agreement on their own.

Mediation and arbitration are methods of “alternative dispute resolution” (ADR). ADR is used between private parties and in government. For example, the U.S. Department of Justice reports that for 2017, cases were 50 percent more likely to be resolved through voluntary ADR proceedings as opposed to court-ordered proceedings.

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How Does Divorce Mediation Work in Texas?

The mediator helps divorcing couples to mutually resolve their issues, such as:

  • custody
  • visitation
  • child support
  • alimony (spousal support or maintenance)
  • property division

A mediator is not a referee, arbitrator, judge or counselor. Instead, she assists spouses to voluntarily reach agreement.

How is Mediation Used in Texas Divorce Cases?

Mediation is one of the most frequently used methods to negotiate a property or custody agreement in Texas divorce cases. An attempt at mediation is required (or strongly recommended) in many Texas counties. For example, in Travis County mediation is required if the parties expect their hearing will be 3 or more hours.

Benefits of Mediation

Mediation has many benefits in divorce cases, including:

  • less expensive
  • higher success
  • confidentiality
  • husband and wife control the decisions (instead of leaving it up to a judge to decide)
  • foster communication and cooperation (important for ongoing relationships, especially where children are involved)
  • works effectively if represented by a lawyer

How Long does Mediation Take?

As quickly or long as the parties want, to reach a full and fair agreement on their issues. A married couple can resolve their disagreements in a few meetings, or may need weeks (or months) depending on how complex their finances are, their level of cooperation or acrimony. Custody issues are, unfortunately, a frequent battleground. Mediation can help immensely to cut through tension and combativeness.

Mediation almost always takes less time than going to court, and is usually much less expensive than a contested divorce case.

What’s a Typical Mediation Session Like?

Sessions can be flexible. Spouses may be in the same room and take turns presenting their information and positions, or may be in separate rooms and work through the mediator.

What Happens if we Reach Agreement?

The Mediator will put it in writing, and encourage both spouses to read it carefully and make sure they understand it and that it accurately represents the parties’ agreement.

What if we Can’t Reach Agreement?

If you can’t amicably resolve all issues through mediation, you will probably have to go to court, where a judge will make the final decisions on any remaining divorce issues.

When is Mediation Inappropriate?

This is an important question, one which we see with some of our clients. If there is a history of domestic violence or substance abuse, you may not really be in a position to engage in mediation. For example, if you’re the victim of domestic abuse, your spouse will undoubtedly have the upper hand in mediation, and may even try to intimidate you with the threat of further physical abuse in order to force you to accept an unfair agreement. The agreements made during mediation must be voluntary; if you’re afraid of your spouse, or if your spouse is forcing you to accept unreasonable terms, you will have an unfair agreement.

How do I Find a Texas Divorce Mediator?

If the court orders mediation, you’ll probably use court-appointed mediators, and you’ll be required to pay a fee. If you want to hire a private mediator, your attorney will have suggestions, or you can get recommendations from others, such as a therapist or a friend who’s been through a divorce. Make sure that you only work with a mediator who has experience in divorce cases — ideally, one who is an experienced family law attorney.

The Law Office of Jaclyn Y. Roberson, PLLC is a family law and estate planning firm based in San Antonio serving the citizens of South and Central Texas.