In recent years, mediation has become an increasingly popular alternative to traditional litigation when negotiating divorce settlements for residents of Georgetown, as well as Williamson County more broadly. For many, mediation is often a great choice for both contested and uncontested divorce cases. The reason for this rise in popularity is simple: mediation has broad applicability to resolve a variety of issues that may accompany a larger divorce. Please continue reading below for a brief overview of mediation and why so many couples are choosing it as a method of dispute resolution.
At its core, mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution, or ADR, which can be used in place of traditional divorce litigation. Traditional litigation is what many think of when they hear the word “court”: wood paneled courtrooms overseen by a judge who presides over the case between the parties and their lawyers. ADR offers a different path toward dispute resolution and is expressly sanctioned by the Texas Family Code. The various methods of ADR allow the parties to resolve their situation without litigation and can be used for almost any legal matter. In the context of divorce, Georgetown couples can enlist the help of a mediator. Mediators are specially trained, impartial third parties who act as a go-between for the parties in resolving their divorce-related disputes. Many people are intimidated by traditional courtrooms. Mediation avoids that problem as its sessions often occur in neutral settings, such as a conference room in a lawyer’s office. Mediators can even host mediation sessions remotely.
In traditional litigation, the judge will deliver the final decision. By contrast, mediation provides the parties, themselves, an opportunity to craft a solution suitable for everyone. Past clients have noted how their increased sense of power and control during mediation increased their confidence and also helped them achieve a more beneficial settlement. Another added benefit of mediation is the cost savings—by avoiding the formal motions of traditional litigation, the parties can reduce the time and money needed to arrive at a solution.
However, while mediation is typically much faster than traditional litigation, some time must be taken to ensure a positive outcome. Mediation sessions are usually scheduled in half or full-day blocks. These time blocks are designed to give the parties adequate time to craft solutions and weigh their options when deliberating. Additionally, even if the parties cannot reach a final agreement within the allotted time, if real progress has been made, mediators may suggest a supplementary mediation session at a later day. If both parties feel like a solution is within reach, they can agree to another session.
When selecting a mediator, it is important to choose someone who possesses both patience and common sense. Fortunately, most of the active mediators in Georgetown are trained on a variety of negotiation strategies and techniques. For many parties, these conflict resolution skills have helped them reach amicable resolutions for their matters. In addition to the skills mentioned above, most mediators have extensive knowledge of Texas family law—particularly divorce law. In the event that the parties reach a roadblock, many mediators can help the parties get back on track by offering suggestions to help the parties toward a resolution.
While mediators have an arsenal of techniques and strategies to assist the parties in arriving at a positive outcome, they have no authority to render a binding decision. Simply put: only the parties, themselves, can agree on a final resolution.
Instead, the mediator’s role is more akin to a guide: he or she ushers the parties through the process towards a mutually beneficial resolution. And while mediators are often attorneys, they are prohibited from offering legal advice to either party.
As we touched on above, mediation is often a great choice for many divorcing couples. A non-exhaustive list of the benefits of mediation includes:
After the mediation process has concluded, the mediator will facilitate the drafting of a written agreement which includes all the agreed-upon terms. If the MSA matches the parties’ agreed terms, it will be signed by both parties, their attorneys, as well as the mediator. In Texas, this document is called the Mediated Settlement Agreement (MSA) and, once signed, it will have the force of law behind it. After signing, the parties’ lawyers will use the MSA as a guide for what is called the Final Decree of Divorce. The Decree is then is presented to the court and is signed by the judge.
Despite the best efforts and intentions of the parties and the mediator, a mediated solution may not be within reach. Disagreements can range from foundational issues to the definitions of a few terms. If a divorcing couple fails to reach an agreement on some issues through mediation, they can use another form of ADR, such as arbitration, or be heard by the court to resolve their remaining disagreements.
If you have questions regarding whether or not mediation is the appropriate path for you, contact our offices at (512) 746-7399 to speak with one of our Georgetown mediation lawyers today.