Family Law Contexts: What Is Mediation?
Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) often used in family law to help individuals and families settle their legal disputes without going to court. During mediation, the opposing parties and their individual legal representation will meet with the neutral, third-party mediator. The mediator then helps them work through their specific problem to assist them in coming to an agreement.
Unlike going through arbitration or appearing in court, the mediator does not hold decision-making power and instead acts as a facilitator. Mediation is generally a voluntary process, but there are some situations where mediation may be required, such as in some family court matters.
As a dispute resolution tool, mediation is very versatile, and you see it across a wide range of legal contexts and in the business world. For example, mediation is also often used in small claims courts, criminal courts, the corporate world, the tech industry, academia, and beyond.
When is Mediation Used?
In the context of family law, mediation is used whenever two parties disagree on some important legal matter, like how an investment account should be divided during a divorce or who should be responsible for shared credit card debt. It is most often used to help separating couples come to terms regarding their divorce settlement. For example, mediation may be used to help a couple negotiate and bargain with each other when dividing their shared assets and debts.
- Property division
- Debt division
- Child custody
While you can use mediation to help negotiate your child custody matter, you generally cannot mediate how much child support a parent will pay. Child support calculations are made based on guidelines provided in Texas Family Code Section 154.001. However, you and your co-parent may use mediation to help you work out childcare expenses not covered by child support, such as costs associated with certain extracurricular activities and planned college expenses.
Is Mediation Right for Me?
If you are looking for a way to resolve your legal disputes without having to go before a judge and in a way that helps you retain some control over the situation, mediation may be a good choice for you. Additionally, if you and your former partner are on reasonably good terms and open communication is possible, mediation may be a good way to help you resolve your problems. Mediation can also benefit newly separated or divorced parents who are still building their co-parenting relationship. Mediation helps model good communication and can help families reach mutually beneficial agreements to their problems.
Mediation won't be the right choice for every couple or family. Mediating your divorce or custody issues requires compromise and a willingness to work together. Divorces that are particularly acrimonious and high stress may be exacerbated by mediation. It may be more beneficial for the couple to litigate their divorce in court in these cases. Similarly, in cases where domestic violence or abuse has occurred, it is often best to forgo mediation.
If you are unsure whether mediation is right for your situation, consult with a trusted attorney, like ours at the Law Firm of Johnson & Gaskill PLLC. We always put the client's best interests first, and we will not encourage mediation if we do not think it is right for you.
Tips for Success in Mediation
If you have decided to move forward with mediation, you may be wondering what you can do to help ensure that your sessions are successful. You may also be nervous about how to approach mediation. While mediation can be a great tool that facilitates a smoother divorce process, it can be stressful. You are not alone in this. Below we provide four helpful tips to encourage a successful mediation process.
#1: Be Prepared
Before attending mediation, you want to spend some time considering your goals. This includes both the topics you want to be covered and what you hope to achieve through mediation. It's also important to remember that mediation is more than just discussing the matter at hand. It can be an emotional process as well. Therefore, preparing for mediation also means getting into the right headspace and mentally preparing for the session and what it entails. You should discuss what to expect from the mediation process with your attorney and look to them for guidance on specifically preparing for your session.
#2: Show Up with an Open Mind
A big part of mediation is compromising and being willing to compromise. This can be difficult when you are in the middle of an important legal dispute with a former partner or your co-parent. However, going in with an open mind and being ready to compromise can help make the mediation process smoother and less stressful. It will also increase the likelihood that you reach a resolution to your matter.
#3: Stay Focused on the Task at Hand
People find themselves in mediation because they are struggling to resolve whatever issue it is they are facing. This can create a lot of difficult feelings and even animosity for the other party. These feelings can make it difficult to stay focused during sessions, especially if something is said that upsets you. However, you can help make sure the session goes smoothly if you work to stay focused on the negotiations at hand and do your best not to get sidetracked by other matters.
#4: Turn to Your Attorney for Guidance
Because the mediator is a neutral third party, they will not advise you regarding what you should do in mediation, nor will they tell you whether a deal is in your best interests. Therefore, it is important that you work with experienced legal counsel like ours at the Law Firm of Johnson & Gaskill PLLC. Your attorney will help you prepare for mediation, give you an idea of what to expect, and guide you throughout the process. With the advice of an attorney, you can feel more confident making legal decisions and have someone on your side to answer questions.
Is mediation right for you? Send us a message online to schedule a confidential consultation. Our lawyers are standing by to help you today.