Mediation can be an extremely valuable tool for clients who wish to settle their family law matter outside of the court arena. In fact, most Texas family law courts require some mediation be attended prior to a final trial date. Not only are the proceedings much less contentious, it can also end up saving the client a great deal of money and heartache in the process.
However, mediation is not something that should be walked into without any preparation. In fact, preparation is key to a successful mediation, and certain steps can make the process easier and even successful for the client.
Do not come to mediation empty handed. The mediator will usually require parties to submit their statements prior to the mediation proceeding. If the parties are participating in a divorce proceeding, bring any documents or evidence that would have otherwise been brought to trial.
Bring the parties’ most recent financial statements, bank account statements, retirement accounts, and any evidence regarding property ownership or debt.
If custody of children is involved, bring calendars to work out parenting arrangements and any other evidence that may be helpful. This does not mean the mediator will necessarily use all of that evidence, but if it is helpful, it is best to have it on hand so that it can be resolved right then and there during mediation.
Keeping expectations realistic is key when it comes to mediation, and one of the biggest mistakes parties can make in mediation or any proceeding is to walk in thinking they can get something they would never get otherwise.
Parties should meet with their attorneys before mediation to talk about what they want and get realistic expectations lined up of what they will likely get, especially if the case goes to trial.
Compromise is the biggest part of mediation, so it is recommended that parties keep in mind what points they consider “no compromise” issues and what issues they are more willing to work on if that means getting the other party to settle.
The worst thing a party can do is not talk these issues out beforehand with his or her attorney only to be very disappointed after mediation begins. Not only will that draw the mediation process out further, but it will also frustrate the proceeding.
Keep in mind that the mediator is being paid by the hour during the mediation. Having these preliminary discussions with counsel before the mediation date will help keep things moving in a more efficient manner.
Not all issues may be resolved during mediation, and that is perfectly acceptable. Even if parties are able to resolve at least some of the contested issues, the mediation will still be considered successful.
Put together a list of all issues to be resolved. The mediator will likely work out the issues that are already agreed on and then tackle the meatier, more contested issues. Putting that list together will make sure that all major issues are discussed during the mediation and a part of the settlement agreement if the parties settle all issues.
Mediation can take some time to complete. It is best if parties are aware of this beforehand and let the process work itself out. The mediator needs adequate time to speak with both parties, and discussions can take a long time for each party.
If it seems like the mediator has been with the other side for a long time, this fact does not necessarily mean that he or she is siding with the other party. The mediator may be attempting to work with that party on getting him or her to come to an agreement.
The mediator may ask to meet with just attorneys at times. Once an agreement has been reached, the mediator will then need to take time to put that agreement into writing. All of this takes time to complete, so it is recommended that parties realize that they will likely be in mediation for the great part of the day.
Bring something to do during down time so that tensions do not run too high in between sessions with the mediator. The key is to stay calm and remain patient during the process. Let the mediator do his or her job and do not push things along too quickly.
The alternative is going to trial which can be much more expensive and could very easily end up with a result neither client wants.
Contact A Custody Lawyer Today
If you have questions about whether mediation is needed in your case, please contact family lawyers at Scott M. Brown and Associates. You can reach us by calling (979) 318-3075. We have offices in Angleton, Webster/Clear Lake, and Pearland.