Mediation has a positive reputation in the legal community, and for good reason.
Trials are extremely stressful, costly, and time-consuming. There's a great deal of uncertainty, and many clients find it difficult to confront their spouses on the witness stand. On the other hand, mediation provides a calm environment where the parties and their attorneys are separated from each other. It's not an adversarial environment, and nearly everyone is more comfortable in an office space than a courtroom. Costs of mediation can be very flexible based on the time needed for the case and the mediator themselves. Prices can range from $600 to $2,600 for eight hours of mediation, which allows clients to look for help that fits in their budget. Mediation can be for half- or full-days, depending on the nature of the case and the issues being negotiated.
While most clients know that mediation is a good tool, few know what to expect on the day of. When you arrive at the mediator's office, they will set you up in a room with your attorney. You do not have to see your spouse's attorney, or even your spouse throughout the entire process. The mediator will come in and explain their process and how mediation looks in their office. Your attorney may want to go over your proposals with you one more time to ensure you're asking for everything that you want. Like court, there's a strong chance you won't get everything you asked for exactly the way you asked for it, but it's critical to tell your attorney all of your concerns. After all: you can't get what you don't ask for. Once the mediator has heard everything, they will go to the other room to confer with your spouse and their attorney. The mediator is a neutral third-party who communicates between you and your spouse, so there is never any direct confrontation. Furthermore, all negotiations between you, your attorney, and the mediator are kept confidential and will not be shared with the other side. The discussions that happens in mediation stays in mediation and cannot be used in a trial, should an agreement not be reached. Additionally, the mediator facilitates negotiation in order to get you and your spouse to reach a realistic, workable agreement.
If an agreement is reached by the parties, then the mediator will draft a Mediated Settlement Agreement, or MSA. This is a binding agreement that cannot be deviated from by the parties after signing it, though it does not have the legal effect of a final divorce decree. In a highly controversial Texas case, In re Stephanie Lee, the court refused to enter a decree based on the terms of the MSA due to fear that it would endanger the child. However, the Texas Supreme Court held that the MSA was valid as written and irrevocable by the parties or the Court, as the purpose of the MSA is to avoid litigation and courts cannot unilaterally determine that litigation regarding the MSA should take place. The MSA can be set aside, but only in extremely rare circumstances--be sure to voice your concerns to your attorney if you think this is possible.
Once the parties and their attorneys have agreed to the form of the MSA and signed it, one attorney will agree to draft the final divorce decree in accordance with the MSA's terms. The attorneys will then exchange the drafted decree with their clients and review it for consistency. Once approved, the parties and attorneys sign the divorce decree and it is taken to the courthouse to be entered. Many clients are itching for their divorce to be finalized as soon as possible, but it's important to realize that the process can be slow. In the state of Texas, no divorce can be finalized before the expiration of a 60 day waiting period that starts when the petition for divorce is filed. Even if a MSA is reached before the 60 day period expires, it cannot be entered until the waiting period requirement has been met. Further, the process of exchanging drafts between attorneys and clients can be tedious, so don't expect the divorce to be finalized within a few days of the MSA being reached. However, this waiting period will be present in litigation as well. Unfortunately, it's a part of the divorce process, and can't be avoided even by mediation.
Once the judge signs the divorce decree, your divorce will be finalized. Divorce is difficult, but using a mediator can cut down on stress, time, and cost. Brandon Bledsoe is a skilled mediator and enjoys working to help families avoid litigation. If you think mediation is right for you, feel free to send us a message or call our office at (512) 944-3329 and inquire about our prices and availability. If you know you'd like to book mediation with Mr. Bledsoe, please click here.