Single for the Holidays, Pt 2.

Last week we discussed the 60 day waiting period that Texas requires between the date of filing for a divorce, and the day the divorce can be final.  So what happens during the 60 day waiting period?  One of the most common events that can take place in many divorces is mediation.  Mediation can be a very effective way to put major conflicts to rest in a divorce. If you or someone you know is considering divorce, a successful mediation can help get the divorce finished before the holiday season, even if the divorce hasn’t even been filed yet.

How Does Mediation Work?

In Texas, mediation is a favored method for dispute resolution in family law matters.  The mediation is run by a mediator, usually a lawyer in the community who also mediates or a former judge, who has gone to training on how to successfully mediate family law matters.  Mediators, like the rest of us, are not created equally, and each mediator’s personal philosophy, negotiation style, focus on different issues within the divorce, and personality affect how the mediator will interact with the parties.    Usually, the attorneys for the parties will agree on a mediator, and because each case and client is different, savvy lawyers will attempt to choose a mediator that will interact positively with the parties.

In a typical mediation, the parties and their respective lawyers will meet at an agreed place and time for the mediation.  Many mediators invite the parties to their office to offer a neutral location for the parties to meet.  Each party and his or her lawyer will be assigned a room, and in many cases the entire mediation will pass without the parties even seeing each other.

The mediator will meet with each party and lawyer to get a feel for the case, and to explain the rules for the mediation.  The mediator will then go between the rooms to take offers, counteroffers, and information back and forth in an effort to work a deal that both parties can live with.  If mediation is successful, a final trial in the case is prevented, and the case is very close to being finished.

Important Concepts For Successful Mediation

  1. Mediation can save a lot of money for the parties, but it is not inexpensive. The mediator will charge both parties a sum of money for his or her service. Typical prices are $500-$800 per half day from each party.  In addition to this cost, the lawyers will charge their respective clients for their time spent with the client mediating.  This can cost from $1000-$2000 per half day, depending on the lawyers’ hourly rate.  Don’t forget that dedicated, determined lawyers will spend a few to several hours in preparation for mediation as well, and that is also a cost for the clients.
  2. Mediation Is Not To Be Taken Lightly by The Parties or Attorneys. If mediation is expensive, then final trial is MORE expensive.  A full day of trial, will cost $2000-$4000 or more.  Plus there will be hours of preparation for final trial including interviewing witnesses, preparing documents, drafting pleadings, preparing for a jury, and many more things that need to be done before trial; all of this work costs money.  However, none of that cost and work will need to be done if mediation is successful.  Thus, serious work needs to go into making mediation successful.  Having the facts and supporting documents necessary to successfully work a deal is critical for a successful mediation, and good lawyers put the work in BEFORE the mediation to make sure the mediation pays for itself by finishing the case.
  3. A Mediated Settlement Agreement (MSA) is irrevocable. If the parties reach an agreement, that agreement is irrevocable.  There is no buyer’s remorse or second bites at the apple.  Once the parties and lawyers have signed the MSA, it’s locked in.  All that will be necessary to finish the case is for the attorneys to get together a final order for the judge to sign that conforms to the MSA.  While the process of getting a final order drafted can be tricky, for all intents and purposes, the MSA is the defining document that finishes the case.

When to Mediate

Generally, I like to mediate as soon as a couple of conditions are met.  First, we must ensure we have enough information about the parties and circumstances to be able to make informed decisions.  Items like bank records, pay stubs, insurance information, retirement account information, and the like help lawyers guide their clients toward reasonable agreements. As a policy, Youngblood Law, PLLC also goes into mediation with a proposed settlement offer that addresses access and possession of the minor children, distribution of the marital estate, and other plans that we hope will amicably resolve the disputes in the divorce or custody case.  It makes sense to have a serious, articulated proposal ready when you walk in the door, but you’d be surprised how many lawyers show up to mediation with a pen and notepad!

Second, the parties have to be in a mental and emotional place where they can make rational decisions.  In family law cases, there can be a huge amount of emotions that cloud judgement, and undermine reasonable settlements. If I sense that the parties may not be able to accept a reasonable offer because of anger or spite for each other, then I will delay mediation until a reasonable agreement can be accepted by the parties.

The Beauty of Mediation

Mediation offers several benefits like saving money for the parties, finishing the divorce weeks or months sooner than waiting on final trial, and providing closure for the parties. But I think the real benefit is self-determination.  When a final trial commences, the parties have zero say in the outcome of the case because the judge or jury will make all the decisions—decisions the parties must live with for years.

However, in mediation, the parties can choose their own fate.  The parties can make all sorts of creative agreements that settle the conflicts in the case.  A good mediator helps the parties make decisions that reduce future conflict, and ultimately help the parties move forward with their lives.  Likewise, good lawyers help their clients by preparing adequately for the endeavor.

At Youngblood Law, PLLC, we are strong supporters of mediation as a method of settling clients’ cases as quickly and inexpensively as possible.  Still, getting both attorneys and the mediator’s calendars to line up can be a chore so we always seek to establish a date for mediation as early in the proceedings as possible to keep the case moving, provided our two timing criteria above are met.

Youngblood Law, PLLC is a Fort Worth, Texas family law firm that uses a holistic approach to help people get through family law problems and beyond.  #beforeyournext make sure this spouse is your ex! This essay is intended for educational use only, and is not a replacement for competent legal counsel.  If you are facing a family law matter, we recommend obtaining competent legal counsel like Youngblood Law, PLLC.  For more information contact us at 817-601-5345, find us on the web at www.youngblood-law.com, or on your mobile device, open your browser and type in lawfw.biz and press Go.

Paul Youngblood #beforeyournext #lawfw #youngbloodlaw #singleforjinglejingle