In many divorces, judges ask parties to go through mediation before pursuing their divorce in court. Mediation is often a less stressful and more cost-effective alternative to in-court divorce, but that doesn't mean it's right for everyone.
Understanding the positives and negatives of mediation and other alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods such as collaborative divorce can help you find the best path forward.
Texas Family Law Courts and Mediation
Mediation isn't a required part of divorce in Texas, but judges do often ask parties to engage in mediation before carrying out a divorce in the courtroom. However, judges typically will not require mediation if one party takes certain actions (such as committing domestic violence or child abuse) that make negotiation between the divorcees effectively impossible.
Mediation can be a great tool for a few reasons:
- It's cost-effective. Mediations often occur over just a few days or weeks. In contrast, contested divorces can take months to finalize in the courtroom. Additionally, parties don't have to pay for lawyers during mediation (although it is advised). As a result, mediation often costs thousands or even tens of thousands less than a contested courtroom divorce.
- It's less stressful. Assuming both parties can negotiate in good faith, mediation is almost always less stressful than an in-court divorce.
- It paves a better path going forward. If the divorcees share children, mediation can establish a positive, amicable co-parenting relationship moving past the divorce.
However, mediation also has negatives:
- The mediator can't give legal advice. If you want legal advice during your mediation (and you probably will, divorce is complex and making long-term decisions can be difficult), you'll need a mediation lawyer.
- Mediation can break down easily if the parties don't negotiate in good faith. Mediation is most effective when both parties put their best foot forward. If your ex is manipulative or tries to strong-arm the process, the mediation negotiations will quickly fall apart.
- Mediation can feel rushed. Sometimes, mediations occur in as little as a single day. For many people, that's not really enough time to think about details like whether to sell the marital house, what a good spousal maintenance arrangement would look like, etc.
Alternatives to Mediation
Mediation is just one form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). If you're not convinced mediation is the right option for you, here are some alternatives:
- Collaborative divorce. In a collaborative divorce, both parties hire a lawyer. The lawyers then negotiate with each other (and the parties) over several sessions to peacefully resolve the divorce. A collaborative divorce is an excellent option if you want something a little more legally secure and less rushed than mediation, but still want to negotiate with your soon-to-be-ex. Like mediation, collaborative divorces work best when both parties are willing to negotiate in good faith.
- Arbitration. In an arbitration, the parties hire an objective third party (usually an experienced divorce lawyer or ex-judge), who then hears arguments from each side and proposes a final resolution. Arbitration is similar to an in-court divorce but is often less drawn-out and more peaceful.
- Litigation. In litigation, both parties decide to settle the divorce out of court. If you don't want to leave the outcome of your case in the judge's hands, but other methods of ADR won't work for you, litigation might be your best bet. While litigations are often more contentious than other ADR methods, the divorcees do get to compromise on a final divorce decree.
Ultimately, most methods of ADR exist to prevent the judge from handing down the final divorce decree. Avoiding a court-ordered divorce decree is usually in both parties' best interests, since having a judge determine the outcome of the divorce removes agency from the divorcees completely and often results in a compromise both parties feel frustrated by.
At the Law Offices of Mark M. Childress, PLLC, our experienced divorce lawyers can help you resolve your divorce peacefully.
To learn more about our firm or schedule a consultation with our team, contact us online or via phone at (817) 497-8148.