WHAT: Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process in which both parties and their attorneys meet with a mediator and discuss the different issues they might have with their case. This all happens outside of the court process. The hope is that the parties reach an amicable resolution without resentment toward the divorce itself. The process will start after a lawsuit has been filed but before the opportunity to go to court for final trial. If the court orders mediation as part of the trial schedule they will require you go to mediation at least 60-90 days before the final trial date.
WHEN: Before the process begins, you go through a a discovery process, where each side requests certain documents and asks interrogatory questions to the other. A lot of those questions are not necessarily about the divorce itself, but more about your personal information like employee benefits, bank accounts, and property you own. If there is a child custody issue, those questions will be about which spouse assumes duties like taking the kids to appointment or going to parent teacher conferences.
Once the information is gathered, the mediation process starts. If one side doesn’t want to go to mediation, then a motion can be filed with the courts to either enter the scheduling order, or make the parties go to mediation.
WHY: Mediation can be successful even if there is hostility between the spouses because of the third-party mediator. In a lot of North Texas cases, the mediator is a retired judge. The benefit is the third-party is not making a binding decision for the parties, but rather letting them come to their own agreement. At the same time, the third-party has a lot of experience in these cases and can make suggestions based on what they’ve seen in court and mediation.
HOW: In most divorce mediations, parties start out in separate rooms. The mediator will work between the two rooms to eliminate any anxiety between the parties if they don’t feel comfortable sitting in the same room and talking to each other. This helps offset any imbalance in power one party might feel. The mediator can let each party know they won’t be able to control everything and still get a fair outcome. There are statutes that dictate child support, ranges of settlements, and reasonable property divisions that every case must follow.
There are some cases that are not suited for mediation. In those cases, a motion would be filed with the court to waive the mediation process. The judge will want to know why the case can’t be settled in mediation and why it needs to go to court. An example would be a child support situation where the monetary allocation is calculated based off of some equation. There isn’t a lot of room to negotiate a settlement. The trial itself is going to be a very short trial, maybe one or two hours. The court isn’t going to make you go through a full day of mediation for something like that.