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When going through a divorce, dealing with a child custody dispute or attempting to resolve any other type of family-related legal issue, it will often be in everyone’s best interests to find a mutually-agreeable outcome. In family-related legal matters, the family aspect can ultimately take precedence; and, while everyone involved should do what is necessary to protect themselves (or their loved ones), it will often be best to do so through means other than litigation.
In many cases, mediation will provide a suitable alternative. Mediation allows those involved to seek help from a neutral third party while still maintaining control of the process and the result. It is useful for resolving a variety of types of family-related legal disputes, including divorces, custody disputes among unmarried parents, and disputes that arise post-divorce.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). While mediation can be used to resolve all types of personal and business disputes, it can be particularly useful for resolving disputes among spouses and other family members who need to achieve a resolution but prefer not to create lingering hostilities or a permanent rift. For example:
- In a divorce, spouses can use mediation to divide their community property or negotiate a parenting plan when they have competing desires but both ultimately want to achieve an amicable result.
- In a child custody dispute, parents, grandparents or others can use mediation to arrive at a mutually-agreeable arrangement without needing to get the children involved in a court battle.
- Following a divorce, former spouses can use mediation to negotiate modifications to their divorce settlement when both agree that changes are necessary.
In divorce and family law mediation, each family member is represented by his or her own attorney, and everyone involved works with a neutral third-party mediator to try to find a solution that works for all parties. A key aspect of mediation is that the mediator does not make decisions on behalf of the parties, but rather relies on his or her expertise to help guide the parties toward an amicable resolution.
When Should Spouses, Parents and Other Family Members Consider Mediation?
With regard to who should consider mediation, there is no single “right” answer. Every family’s circumstances are different, and each set of circumstances calls for its own unique approach and unique outcome. That said, mediation can be useful under a broad range of scenarios, and divorcing spouses, feuding parents and other family members will usually want to consider mediation early on as a potential means of resolution.
However, there are certain situations in which pursuing mediation is not a good option. For example, if you, your child or any other member of your family needs protection from domestic violence, you should seek emergency relief through the Texas courts. Likewise, if there is a risk that your child’s other parent (or another family member) will leave Texas with your child, this is a scenario in which you may need to go to the courts immediately as well. But, in non-emergency situations, mediation can be surprisingly effective, and you should not rule it out as an option simply because you and the other individual (or individuals) involved in your dispute are not on speaking terms. Let our divorce mediation lawyer help.
What Can Spouses, Parents and Other Family Members Expect During Mediation?
Once all parties have agreed to participate in mediation, the parties’ attorneys will generally confer regarding the selection of a mediation service provider. A mediator will then be selected, and the parties’ first mediation session will be scheduled. Prior to the first mediation session, each family member will meet with his or her own attorney to discuss the issues and their preferred outcomes, and the mediator may supply a list of questions or request certain information in preparation for the first mediation session as well.
During the first mediation session, the parties will attempt to negotiate with regard to a discrete and predetermined set of issues. The mediator will suggest potential compromises and offer potential solutions that may not have been on either party’s radar. Depending on the complexity of the legal issues and family dynamics involved, this first session may result in an agreement, or the parties may go home with takeaways that they can use to continue working toward a mutually-agreeable outcome.
The parties can continue to schedule mediation sessions until they are able to come to terms. In the unlikely scenario that mediation proves unsuccessful (once all parties agree to mediate in good faith, the likelihood of a mediated outcome is reasonably high), the parties can decide not to schedule additional sessions and seek a resolution through alternate means.
Do You Need a Divorce or Family Law Attorney to Represent You in Mediation?
Spouses, parents and other family members can represent themselves in mediation just as they can represent themselves in court. However, this is not recommended. Family law issues can be surprisingly complex, and agreements can be difficult to modify once they become final. In order to make informed decisions, you need to rely on the advice of an experienced family law mediation lawyer who can not only represent you during the mediation sessions, but who can also advise you on all other aspects of your divorce or other family law matter.
What if Mediation Proves Unsuccessful?
While mediation is usually successful when all parties understand the purpose and agree to submit to the process, occasionally it isn’t. If you try mediation and it doesn’t work out, all of your other options are still available. At the very least, you are likely to have made some progress during your mediation sessions, and you will have fewer issues to resolve through other means (i.e. courtroom litigation).
Contact the McKinney Divorce and Family Lawyers at Nordhaus & Nordhaus, PC
If you have questions about the mediation process or the benefits of mediating a divorce or other family-related legal matter, we encourage you to get in touch. For a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our attorneys, please call 214-726-1450 or contact us online today.