What is Mediation?
Mediation is one of the forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) which the Texas Legislature has provided for parties in dispute. Like the other forms of ADR (such as, arbitration
), the procedures of mediation are governed by the Texas Family Code
. In the traditional litigation process, parties to a dispute will engage in a formal contest held in a public court. ADR is different in that it permits couples who do not wish to pursue their claim in public court another avenue to resolution. For couples in Cedar Park, this means that much of the legwork in a typical divorce case can be resolved outside of a courtroom. Mediation is a popular form of ADR in that it permits divorcing couples to work toward a resolution with the help of a specially trained, impartial third party (the mediator). In Cedar Park, mediation occurs in a neutral setting, such as a lawyer’s office, instead of a public court room. However, there is no requirement that mediations be conducted in person, and many Cedar Park lawyers and mediators are capable to mediation remotely.
Many couples find mediation to be less costly, less stressful, and more efficient than the traditional litigation route. Because the parties are in the driver’s seat during mediation, many couples prefer this ADR method to traditional litigation, where all matters of the case are decided by the court with little input from the parties themselves.
It is not uncommon for a typical mediation session to last a full day. But this is significantly shorter than traditional litigation, where the parties may be forced to spend a full day at the court simply to appear for a short hearing. If the couple is unable to arrive at a final, mediation solution at the end of the mediation session, there will generally be three options available: (1) if a solution is within grasp, ask the mediator for a brief extension so that the final details can be worked out; (2) if a solution is likely, but not imminent, schedule an additional mediation session; (3) if a mediated solution appears unlikely, allow negotiations to cease and prepare for a different approach. Whether a case can be resolved within the scheduled amount of time will depend on the number of contested issues between the parties and their relevant positions on those issues.
Who is the Mediator?
Mediators are always neutral, third-party individual. This ensures that no undue influence will pollute the mediator’s efforts to guide the parties to an agreed solution. Cedar Park mediators are known for coming to mediation sessions equipped with a slew of negotiation techniques, and specially conflict resolution training. The mediator will help the parties facilitate their own resolution by keeping them on track and offering suggestions to help resolve any remaining points of contention.
While the mediator helps the parties reach a resolution, the mediator has no power to force the parties into an agreement. In other words, the mediator will not render a decision to the parties, or force either spouse to accept any term. Instead, the role of the mediator is to guide the parties through the mediation process and a final resolution. In this way, the parties themselves must craft a solution that works for both, instead of having a decision dictated to them (as would happen in a court). More often than not, the mediator will also be a practicing lawyer, however mediators are prohibited from offering legal advice to either parties during the course of the mediation process.
What are the Benefits of Mediation?
As we briefly mentioned above, mediation is a great choice for many couples. Many couples benefit from mediation in the following ways:
- Less Time. Traditional divorce litigation can be a long process. A crowded court docket and the great variety of hearings, depositions, and appearances can draw out litigation timelines to over 18 months. In contrast, couples who opt for mediation are free to schedule their sessions at any time.
- Reduced Costs. The reduced time commitment necessary for mediation often translates to reduced costs for a great majority of couples. This is, in part, due to the couple’s ability to bypass some of the most time-consuming aspects of traditional litigation, such as formal discovery. For this reason alone, many couples prefer mediation as an efficient, cheap alternative to litigation.
- More Flexible. Mediation provides couples with much more control and allows a level of flexibility that is not available in traditional litigation, where all aspects are under the control of the court.
- Greater Chance of Success. This greater sense of control often results in a higher probability of a mediated solution. This, in turn, leads couples to report a much higher chance of success and higher satisfaction rates over those who chose traditional litigation.
After the parties have arrived at an agreement, their lawyers will draft a document which will include all of the agreed upon terms. This document is call the Mediated Settlement Agreement
(MSA). After both parties review the MSA, it will be signed by the parties, their attorneys, and also the mediator. Once the MSA has been signed, the parties’ lawyers will draft a Final Decree of Divorce
. Both parties will have ample opportunity to provide input to the Final Decree
so that its accurately reflects the MSA. The Final Decree
will then be presented and signed by the Judge. At that time, the agreement will have the force of law behind it.
When Mediation Does Not Solve Every Issue
Even in the most amicable divorce cases, a couple is not likely to agree on every aspect of their split. This is not a problem for those wishes to engage in mediation, however. When couples are unable to arrive at a mediated agreement on a particular issue, then they can continue with the mediation for all other terms, but revert to another ADR method or even traditional litigation for the remaining, unresolved issues. Because of this, it is almost always beneficial for couples to attempt to mediate all terms before engaging in alternative approaches.
Contact a Cedar Park Mediation Attorney for Help Today
If you would like to discussion mediation with an experienced lawyer, contact
our offices at (512) 746-7399 to speak with one of our Cedar Park mediation lawyers and learn whether mediation may be an appropriate avenue for your matter.