Mediation & Arbitration
Divorce Mediation came to the forefront as a settlement tool about 20 years ago. A mediator is a neutral party who utilizes communications skills and knowledge of the law to assist the parties in reaching an agreement. Generally speaking, mediators who handle family law cases are lawyers who engage in family law litigation and collaborative law.
The divorce courts will usually refuse to allow parties to have a trial unless they have first attempted to settle their case through mediation. That policy arose because judges realized that the vast majority of cases can be settled through mediation. Of course, having cases settle pleases judges because it allows the court to utilize its time and facilities to resolve other matters.
The Mediation Process
From the perspective of the parties, the mediation process offers a unique opportunity that will not be available once they set foot in the courtroom for trial. Once a trial begins, the judge must enter orders that comply with the requirements of the Texas Family Code, which means there are some things the court cannot do and other things the court must do. Also, as a matter of policy, there are some things that a court will not do, and other things a judge can be relied upon to do. Almost inevitably, the best solutions to the issues in every family law case cross those “can’t do” and “won’t do” lines. The bottom line is that the parties can make a better deal for themselves than they can expect the judge to do for them.
Mediation Settlement Agreement
If the parties make an agreement in mediation, the mediator will draft a Mediation Settlement Agreement, which will contain an outline of the settlement terms and an admonition in bold type stating that it is binding on the parties and not subject to revocation. Although the document is not a final court order, once signed, it locks the parties and the court into the settlement terms.
More information about the topic can be found on our page “Mediation – A Settlement Tool.”
Family Law Specialists
At Woods, May & Matlock, our family law specialists blend more than 75 years of combined experience as litigators and certified mediators to assist our clients in making informed decisions, reach fair settlements, protect the interests of children and move forward in a civilized manner.