Making the decision to end a marriage is rarely easy; however, sometimes it seems easier than making it through the legal process of divorce that follow that decision. If there are issues in your divorce that are contested, and an agreement does not appear forthcoming, the court may order (or strongly suggest) that you attend mediation. In case that occurs, a Fort Worth family lawyer at Boyd Family Law explains what to expect from the divorce mediation process.
To understand the role of mediation in a Texas divorce, you need to first understand some divorce basics. The divorce process is initiated by one spouse (the “Petitioner”) upon the filing of a petition. The other spouse (the “Respondent”) is notified of the filing and provided a copy of the petition. The Respondent must then decide how to respond. If the parties remain on friendly terms, the divorce can be amicable with all issues being resolved through mutual agreement. If, however, the parties are adversaries, the process can be very contentious with many of the issues being contested. One way or another though, all issues in a divorce must be resolve before the divorce can be granted. This is where mediation comes into the picture.
The court typically requires the parties to appear in court at regular intervals in order to determine how the divorce is proceeding. If it becomes clear that there are issues in the case that the parties appear unable to resolve, the court may decide to step in and try to move things along. Those issues can eventually be resolved at a trial; however, court calendars are often backlogged, meaning you may need to wait months, even years, for a trial. A trial is also time-consuming and expensive for the court. Finally, if there are minor children involved, judges typically try and get through the process as quickly as possible because the lives of those children are often fairly unstable while a divorce is pending.
Mediation is one of several types of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Typically a mediator is an attorney who has received specialized training in mediation strategies. It is important to understand that a mediator is not a judge and does not make any binding decisions regarding the case. In fact, the mediator does not make any decisions. Furthermore, a mediator does not give legal advice nor offer legal opinions regarding any aspect of the case, including the strength or weakness of a party’s position on an issue.
What a mediator does do is review the case looking for areas where the parties might be willing to compromise reach an agreement on the contested issues. The mediator will usually sit down with each side (and their respective lawyers) before getting started and try and get an idea about what that party’s most important goals are, what points he/she absolutely will not budge on, and what points might be more flexible. Throughout the mediation process, the mediator will go back and forth with each party trying to bring both sides closer to an agreement.
Although the court may have ordered (or strongly suggested) you to try mediation, you are not required to reach a resolution during your mediation. In addition, nothing you say during the mediation session can be used against you if the case ultimately goes to trial. If you are able to reach an agreement on some, or even all, of the issues, that agreement will be reduced to writing and turned into the court for approval. Any remaining issues at the end of the mediation process will either be addressed in another attempt at mediation or at a trial.
If you have additional questions or concerns about the role of mediation in the Texas divorce process, contact an experienced Fort Worth family lawyer at Boyd Family Law to schedule your appointment today.