Family Law Mediation
Mediation is an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) method often used to resolve family law disputes.
Fort Bend County family courts require mediation in a number of situations unless good cause can be shown as to why mediation should not be required. Typically, mediation is required prior to any Temporary Orders hearing in cases where a child is involved and prior to final trials in all cases.
Even when mediation is not required by local rules, mediating the issues in your family law case has numerous benefits:
Mediation can happen before anything is filed in court.
Typically, mediation is less costly than litigating in court.
You don’t have to hire an attorney to mediate your family law issues.
You get a say in what happens in your case, instead of the judge deciding what happens.
Mediation is normally less stressful than going to court.
Mediation is normally less confrontational than going to court.
Through mediation, you can typically conclude your case much more quickly than if you went to court.
What Issues Can Be Resolved in Mediation?
The Terms of Divorce
Division of Debts
Visitation and Access to Children
What is the Process Like?
Mediation is a process that is facilitated by a trained and certified mediator to act as an impartial liaison between parties to a dispute. During the mediation process, typically only parties can be present, plus their lawyers if represented by counsel. Depending on several factors, during mediation the parties may be in separate rooms for the entirety of the process or may meet in a “joint session” to discuss issues. While the parties are separated, the mediator goes back and forth between the parties to exchange ideas and settlement offers. If the parties are in the same room, the mediator directs the negotiations and facilitates discussion between the parties. The mediator keeps negotiations going until an agreement is reached or the mediator determines that the parties will not reach a settlement. This mediation format is conducive to settlements in both in-person mediations and online mediations using Zoom with breakout rooms.
With in-person mediation, the mediation session is usually at the mediator’s office or a neutral location. This ensures that neither side feels like the other side has an advantage. The parties and the mediator (and the parties’ attorneys if they have them) stay at the mediation location until an agreement is reached or the mediator decides that the parties will not reach an agreement. Depending on the complexity of the issues in the case, in-person mediation can last anywhere from 3 to 8 hours. In most simple divorces, an agreement is reached in a half-day mediation (4 hours).
With online mediation, the mediation session occurs via Zoom with the parties attending from wherever they may be located. This can be more convenient for the parties if one or both parties either travel or cannot meet in person for some other reason. However, the success of online mediation often depends upon the internet connection of the parties, so a strong internet connection is required. The parties and the mediator (and the parties’ attorneys if they have them) stay online in the Zoom meeting until an agreement is reached or the mediator decides that the parties will not reach an agreement. Like in-person mediations, the length of mediation will depend on the complexity of the case. Most simple divorces can be mediated in a half-day (4 hour) session.
Who Else Might Attend Mediation?
Others may be involved in the mediation process. These individuals can include therapists, counselors, accountants, and social workers. However, the process is driven by the client(s) and their goals. The environment is meant to support both parties and be as non-confrontational as possible.
What Can the Mediator Do?
The mediator does not offer legal advice but is there to facilitate communication between the parties. The mediator will go over the guidelines and expectations of the session and they will ensure that they are followed by both parties. The goal of mediation is to reach an agreement called a “Mediated Settlement Agreement” or “MSA.”
What Happens if We Reach an Agreement?
If a Mediated Settlement Agreement is reached, then it is binding and not revocable by law. Parties may settle all or some of their issues. If only some issues are settled, the parties will enter into a “Partial Mediated Settlement Agreement.”
What Happens if We Don’t Reach an Agreement?
If the mediator concludes that a Mediated Settlement Agreement will not be reached, then the mediator ends the mediation their role is complete. At that point the parties will proceed to court or legal counsel will step in to advise on the next steps.