Divorce can be stressful for both spouses. You are dealing with a lot, like the splitting of assets, child support, and alimony payments. While many couples hire lawyers and go to court, there is an alternative way to dissolve a marriage. Couples can also choose to go through mediation, guided by a skilled mediation divorce lawyer in Austin. This option can not only cost less but can also make the process go more quickly and smoothly.
What Is Mediation?
Mediation is a form of dispute resolution where a neutral third party maneuvers the two spouses into discussions to resolve their differences. A mediator allows both parties to settle any sticking points without lengthy court proceedings.
The mediator does not make decisions and is neutral throughout the process. They do not represent either spouse and have no monetary interest in whether or not the spouses can form an agreement. They are simply paid for their time.
Mediation can be a viable alternative if a couple has agreed that their marriage is over and would like to go their separate ways without a lot of hassle. With mediation, each spouse tells the other what they want in terms of assets and visitation. The mediator then guides them through the process of coming to a fair agreement on all matters.
Why Should I Participate in Mediation?
There are many positive aspects of going through mediation instead of a courtroom divorce. Some of those reasons include:
- A quicker resolution to your separation
- Cheaper than going to court and has fewer attorney fees
- Protecting the children from the anxiety of drawn-out legal proceedings
- Negotiating for what you want out of the assets
- Dividing assets in a way that is acceptable for both parties
- Agreeing amicably on child custody
Mediation puts both spouses in control of what they want to get out of the divorce. It can be simple and stress-free if the parties are willing to communicate and make concessions.
Mediation v. Arbitration
Some of our clients need clarification on mediation and arbitration. While similar in many respects, there are significant differences between the two. For both processes, the parties work with a qualified legal professional to assist in sorting out differences.
But an arbitrator hears arguments from both sides and makes a binding decision. Once an arbitrator makes a decision, it takes time to reverse it if the parties change their minds. Mediators do not make legal decisions. They only work with spouses to agree on splitting up assets, support payments, and other issues related to the divorce.
Another difference between mediation and arbitration is that a judge may order couples to attend mediation before a court trial starts. The judge may sense that the couple would benefit from mediation.
When Mediation Should Not Be A Consideration
With mediation, both spouses have to be open to agreeing. Both parties need a positive attitude and should leave their anger at home. They should be willing to give up certain things to get what they want from the divorce. That said, mediation is not for everyone. Some reasons for not choosing mediation are:
- If there is a history of domestic abuse in the marriage
- Too much anger and emotional baggage hinder you from making rational decisions
- You suspect your spouse is hiding assets or debts from you
- If you want your divorce to be the “fault” of the other spouse (e.g., infidelity or abandonment)
Mediation needs both parties on board, and honesty is vital to a final resolution.
It is important to note that mediation is not mandatory in Texas. The option is there for spouses who want to go that route. If the spouses agree on mediation, they file a motion with the court, and the judge will sign off on the mediation process.
Choosing a Mediator
Mediators are either chosen by both parties or appointed by the court. Every mediator has their personality and needs to be a good fit with both spouses. It can be helpful to have attorneys present at your mediation so that both parties have their interests protected. Honesty and a willingness to concede certain pieces are critical to a successful mediation.
Once you have a few potential mediators to look at, you and your spouse should have particular questions on hand. Some critical questions to ask a prospective mediator are:
- Are they licensed family law attorneys in Texas?
- How long have they been a mediator in Texas?
- How much do they charge? Is it a flat fee or hourly?
- How long will the mediation last?
- Are there any mediation rules that we have to follow?
It would be best if you choose a mediator who suits both of your needs and fits both of your personalities. If you hire a mediation divorce attorney, they can make recommendations if needed.
How Much a Mediator Costs
Mediators generally charge an hourly rate for their services. Spouses will usually split the cost of the mediator 50/50. In some circumstances, the court may order that a mediator charge less than usual if both spouses have financial difficulties.
Let’s put the cost into perspective. Hiring a family law attorney and the trial process can be costly. Hiring a mediator will most likely be a fraction of the cost of going to trial in front of a judge. Plus, using a mediator to resolve your differences can put less of a strain on an already deteriorating relationship.
The Mediation Process
The mediation process is pretty straightforward. First, there will be an orientation where the mediator introduces themself and explains the process of mediation and how it works.
Generally, mediators split up the parties into two separate rooms. They will then spend time with each party to discuss what they want from the mediation (assets, child support, etc.). Then, the mediator will go back and forth between the two spouses and suggest how they can come to a fair settlement. A mediated settlement agreement gets written up if a mediator successfully gets the parties to agree. If mediation is court-ordered, the agreement is a binding contract and is difficult to overturn.
After the agreement has the necessary signatures, the paperwork for the final divorce decree gets filed with the court. If you have a mediation divorce lawyer, they can file these papers for you. According to Texas law, you can get a final divorce decree once this paperwork gets filed. But there are two exceptions to this rule. Those are:
- The judge can deny the final divorce decree if he feels the settlement resulted from fraud or coercion.
- The judge can deny the final divorce decree if the agreement is not in the best interests of the children and either:
- A spouse was a victim of domestic violence and was not thinking clearly, or
- The agreement would allow a parent with a history of abuse to have unsupervised visits with a child.
If the above circumstances are absent, the judge must enter the decree of divorce based on the mediated settlement agreement.
Do I Need a Divorce Lawyer if I Am in Mediation?
Getting input from an experienced and knowledgeable mediation divorce lawyer in Austin is always helpful. You have the right to bring an attorney with you to your mediation. If your spouse has one, you should have one too.
A lawyer can help guide you through the process of mediation. Remember, the mediator is not your attorney and may not provide legal advice. Having someone fluent in family law could help you understand the process.
What Happens When Mediation is Unsuccessful?
If you go through the mediation process and you still can’t come to an agreement with your spouse, your case may end up in front of a judge. The two parties may decide to take a break from mediation and then return to it after a month or two. Time may be what it takes to get over the mediation hump.
Contact Smith Family Law For Your Mediation Divorce Lawyer in Austin.
At Smith Family Law, we understand the stresses of getting a divorce. Divorce is a life-changing experience for you, and you need someone in your corner to help you get through the challenging parts.
Whether you need help getting through a divorce or need a modification to an existing agreement, the team at [firm-law] will fight for you every step of the way. We also know the law when it comes to mediation and can give recommendations to those mediators we trust. We have been practicing family law in Austin for a long time, and the circle of mediators is close.
Our experienced team provides a wide variety of services in the family law field. Give us a call today at 512-729-8783 or contact us online for an initial case review. An experienced family law attorney can make all the difference in a divorce.