Updated: May 10, 2022
When most people begin to consider divorce, they immediately think of nasty court battles and the cost of hiring a divorce lawyer. Although there is some truth to this, in many situations, couples can take a different route in ending their marriage--it’s called Mediation. In fact, in Texas, mediation in contested custody cases is usually required BEFORE you step foot in a court. You don't have a choice. Mediation usually occurs at two parts of your case--before a hearing for temporary orders in a contested custody case and then later, before a final trial after the "discovery phase" of the litigation.
This trend began more than a decade ago, and has picked up momentum since. There are two primary reasons for this. The first is simply a result of a severe backlog of cases in the Texas and Houston court systems, precluding courts from being able to set hearings quick enough, as well as the ability to devote the time that these types of cases demand. Too often, courts are now putting a time limit of an hour or less per side to present their facts in a hearing for temporary orders in a contested custody case . It’s extremely difficult to present a full and accurate picture of what's in your children’s best interest to a stranger, the Judge, in such a hearing.
The second reason is to try to force divorcing parents to work together to craft a workable agreement. Statistics reveal that agreements entered into by divorcing parties usually have a better chance of success and greatly reduce the need for future litigation, wherein parties seek modifications of orders post-divorce. If those seeking a divorce can come to an agreement, rather than having a court mandate an order that neither party may like, it makes the best out of a difficult situation.
You have more Say in your Divorce Outcome with Mediation
Entering into an agreement in mediation can also present the parties with a lot more options and flexibility than having the Judge make a ruling after hearing testimony. In Texas, Judges typically will default to the standard provisions for parenting time found in the Texas Family Code, as that is statutorily presumed to be in the best interest of your children.
However, that may not always be best for your children. If your children have special needs, are involved in many extra-curricular activities, or the parents have unusual work hours, the parties may be able to agree on something that is different than the standard parenting time set forth by statute. In such a situation, they can craft an agreement that suits not only their schedules and needs better, but most importantly, allows the children to thrive with a routine that is suited best to their unique needs.
Is Mediation Cheaper and Faster than Other Alternatives?
Generally speaking, the answer is yes on both points. If you and your spouse can work together to dissolve the marriage, even with the assistance of lawyers, you will reach final resolution much more quickly than if you have to rely on the courts.
In order to be successful at mediation, you and your spouse have to be able to peacefully deal with the main issues of divorce which include custody of the kids, child support, dividing the property in the marriage, spousal support (if any) and visitation. You need to put aside your emotions, and focus on your children. Sometimes that means giving up on some of what you want, and agreeing to what is truly in your children’s best interest.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Divorce Mediation?
We believe the answer is yes. Although the mediation process is informal and doesn’t involve rules of evidence and trial procedure, if you arrive at an agreement, you will sign the mediated settlement agreement acknowledging that what you have agreed to is binding and irrevocable. If you don’t know what your rights are, what the law is, what the court is likely to do in such a case, or even how to draft agreements, your binding mediated settlement agreement will likely omit vital language or creative solutions that an experienced trial lawyer can provide you in mediation.
Further, the mediated settlement agreement will then need to be set forth in a lengthy and detailed order for the judge to sign, with language that makes it enforceable. Once again, you want someone knowledgeable to draft and review the final order. However, that final order is based on the binding and irrevocable language set forth in your mediated settlement agreement. Since that is the foundation of any final court order, isn’t it better to have a lawyer at the mediation stage rather than when it's too late to change the agreement?
Houston family law attorney Michael Von Blon is one of the most experienced attorneys in Texas. In his 30 plus year career as a lawyer, he has helped hundreds of clients with mediation to get a divorce that allows them and their children to confidently move on with their lives.
How Do I Prepare for Mediation?
So how do you plan for a successful mediation?
First, be honest with yourself as to what your desires are and what’s in your children’s best interest.
Second, work with your attorney and be well prepared going into mediation. Although mediation is an informal process, treat it as you would if you were going trial--it's serious business.
Third, listen. Rather than begin processing your retort to a comment the other side may make, listen to what they have to say. Not only may you learn something useful in the event your case doesn’t resolve in mediation, oftentimes there are hidden, unintended messages that can be useful in formulating an offer that may appeal to the other side.
Fourth, be creative; think outside the box. After all, no child and no family are the same. Sometimes something unorthodox may be the best solution for your family. Lastly, don’t be negative and give up in the mediation process. Usually, the mediator is the one who gets to declare an impasse. Why? Because the mediator is in both rooms during the mediation and is privy to both parties’ perspective, goals and desires.
You have more Say in your Divorce Outcome with Mediation
With mediation, you have the added benefit of controlling how your divorce proceeds. If you have to battle it out in court, you are at the mercy of the court’s schedule and, in the end, you will have to live with the judge’s ruling on important topics. Carving out the time away from work to attend court is highly disruptive to your life. By choosing mediation, you control when you meet to define the terms of your divorce.
Contact Houston divorce lawyer Michael Von Blon to discuss how you can use mediation in order to come to a divorce agreement that works for you and your children. His vast experience in such matters will ease your mind.