If you and your spouse have concluded that your marriage is ending and it’s time for a divorce, you may want to consider mediation. Mediation is a dispute resolution process that can help parties reach a reasonable agreement that suits their family’s needs. 

Divorce can be difficult and emotional, but the process of mediation can help to minimize tension and maintain goodwill. Our lawyers at The Stout Law Firm, PLLC, are ready to help you determine if mediation is right for you and will advocate for your rights and interests in the process.  

What Is Mediation?

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that helps couples reach amicable agreements without going to trial. A mediator acts as an impartial third party who helps the parties address various issues in an effort to reach a settlement agreement. The mediator can also give guidance on certain issues but cannot give you legal advice. 

Mediation is often a less contentious or confrontational way to come to an agreement. It is a process where you, your spouse, and your attorneys work together towards resolution. 

You can go to mediation before or after you file your petition for divorce. The court may also order you and your spouse to go through mediation after you have filed for divorce. In Texas, courts typically require the parties to make a good-faith attempt to resolve their issues in mediation before proceeding with certain hearings or trials. 

Why Use Mediation?

Often, divorce and family law matters are resolved through mediation. 

There are many benefits of mediating your divorce: 

  1. Efficiency—mediation is typically a faster process than traditional divorce litigation, which tends to be lengthy and drawn out;
  2. Less stress—mediation is often less stressful because it is a more collaborative process where the parties attempt to compromise;
  3. Promotes communication—the third-party mediator and your attorney can strategically communicate with the opposing side in a way that encourages settlement;
  4. Saves money—with fewer court appearances and billable attorney hours, mediation often saves the parties money;
  5. You have control—because you and your spouse are cooperating to reach an agreement, you both have more control over the ultimate terms of the agreement and can agree to more creative solutions that work best for your and your family; and
  6. Confidentiality—the discussions and mediation process are confidential, unlike traditional divorce litigation proceedings, which are public. What is said and done in mediation is confidential, even if you do not settle your case. 

Mediation is often an effective and successful form of dispute resolution. Animosity and tension can be alleviated when the parties work together towards a resolution, which can result in more cooperation in the future. This is particularly important in cases that involve co-parenting minor children. Ongoing cooperative communication between the spouses can be positive for both the children and the parties involved. Although, mediation does not necessarily mean that spouses will be able to effectively co-parent post-mediation. 

Determining If Mediation Is Right for You

As mentioned above, mediation has many benefits for parties seeking to divorce. But mediation may not be for every couple. You may choose not to mediate if you and your spouse know you cannot cooperate or agree on significant issues.

Of course, even where two parties are on polar opposite ends of the spectrum, a skilled mediator can help guide them toward some reasonable and mutually acceptable middle ground. Keep in mind, regardless of your opinion of the mediation process, if the court requires you to attend mediation before a hearing or final trial, you must follow the court’s policies, procedures, and orders. 

Another instance where you may not want to mediate is if you are in an abusive relationship. Mediation is not recommended in cases involving a history of domestic violence, abuse, or intimidation between the parties. A party may file a written objection to mediation on the basis of family violence. Texas law protects victims of family violence and courts may decide against ordering mediation in cases involving a history of violence or abuse. In these cases involving domestic violence, it is best to forgo mediation, if possible, to protect the physical or emotional safety of either spouse. 

Contact one of our family law attorneys at The Stout Law Firm to help determine your options and the best course of action in your case.  

What Is the Process of Mediation?

Before mediation begins, you will have the opportunity to meet with your attorney. You and your attorney can discuss your main priorities and goals for the mediation. Your attorney will help you strategize. Remember that mediation involves making compromises, so come prepared to be flexible and creative. 

Consider bringing documentation to your initial meeting with your attorney. Financial records, deeds, property appraisals, tax returns, pay stubs, and relevant documents relating to your children can help your attorney understand your position and negotiate skillfully on your behalf. Your spouse will most likely meet with their attorney to review their goals and plans as well. 

Typically, the mediation takes place at  a neutral location, like the mediator’s office. You and your attorney will be in one room, and your spouse and their attorney will be in another. The mediator goes between the rooms to hear each side’s position and relay negotiations. Some mediators also perform mediations online and go between chat rooms to facilitate negotiation. 

The end goal is for the spouses to come to a mutually agreeable decision about issues related to their divorce, including child custody, property division, and spousal support, if applicable. If you reach an agreement, all parties and attorneys will sign what is called a mediated settlement agreement, which is fully binding once signed. 

Is a Mediation Agreement Binding?

At the end of the mediation process, the parties come together to sign the mediated settlement agreement. A mediated settlement is binding in Texas if both parties and their attorneys sign the agreement. The agreement must also state that it is “not subject to revocation.” 

Generally, once the agreement is signed, the court must approve and adopt the mediated settlement agreement. There are extremely limited instances when a court would decline to enter judgment based on a mediated settlement agreement.

For example, the court may decline to enter the agreement if the court finds that a party to the agreement was a victim of family violence which impaired their ability to make decisions, or the agreement would permit a person who has a history or pattern of past or present physical or sexual abuse directed at any person to reside in the same household as the child or have unsupervised access to the child, and the agreement is not in the child’s best interests. 

The Stout Law Firm’s Mediation Services

The Stout Law Firm can provide mediation services for your case or guide you through mediation as your attorney. 

Mediation Services Provided by the Stout Law Firm

Mediation can be an effective way to settle a case and reach an agreement on various issues without having to go to court. Our firm has handled numerous mediations for our clients. Attorney Angela Stout is also a talented and experienced mediator who knows the ins and outs of the mediation process. Angela is certified as a mediator by the A.A. White Dispute Resolution Center. She can serve as a neutral third party mediator or can fiercely advocate on your behalf if representing you individually in the mediation. 

Angela is board certified in family law  by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Her acute understanding of family law matters allows her to quickly grasp the issues at hand and help you navigate the complexities involved with a divorce. 

Why Have Representation at Mediation?

Hiring an attorney to represent you in mediation can help you meet your goals and protect your interests. While the process is more collaborative than traditional divorce litigation, you can still benefit from having a knowledgeable advocate on your side. An experienced family law attorney understands the legal framework of divorce. Prior to mediation, an attorney can help you identify goals and outcomes you are seeking from the divorce.

They will also review documentation and prepare you for the mediation. During mediation, the attorney can advocate for your interests and negotiate to achieve your set goals. They can be with you each step of the process to answer questions, find realistic solutions, and advance your best interests. A mediator cannot give you legal advice, so it is helpful to have an attorney present at mediation to properly advise you before you enter into a binding agreement. 

Contact Our Attorneys for Your Mediation

Our Houston attorneys are prepared to help you navigate your divorce. The Stout Law Firm, PLLC, focuses solely on family law and is a small-sized firm. This gives us the advantage of working closely with our clients in a practice we know the ins and outs of.

Our attorneys have decades of experience helping clients through mediation. We pride ourselves on giving our clients one-on-one attention and finding the best solutions for their needs. Contact us today to discuss whether mediation is the right course of action for you and your family.