What is Mediation?

People who are in family law cases – such as those involving divorce and child custody – usually have an interest in achieving their goals but not in creating or prolonging expensive lawsuits that can damage relationships between parents. Most want to avoid that and be able to resolve their case without having to go all the way to a final trial.

Unfortunately, because family law cases very often deal with emotionally charged issues such as who gets custody of minor children, and because the goal of each party is to end up with custody, it can appear to the parties that there’s no way their case can be resolved short of a full-blown trial at the end of which a judge will rule in favor of one or the other. The parties get locked into an “all or nothing” way of thinking.

Well, what if I told you there is another way, one that avoids the “all or nothing” approach, that’s very effective (works about 75% of the time), avoids trial and gives the parties the power to craft their own, unique resolution not by going head-to-head but with the help of a trained, neutral go-between?

That way – mediation – has existed for a long time and it is used extensively by courts and lawyers as an invaluable tool to resolve cases of all kinds – not just family law – long before final trial. It not only can save money and time, but also help prevent the damage to the familial relationship that is the all-too-often result of all-out family law litigation.

Quite simply, mediation uses a trained go-between, the mediator, who is a neutral who is charged with the duty to meet with the parties and their attorneys and then facilitate them to make and exchange settlement options. The mediator’s job, if you will, is to find the common ground that always exists between parties in a case, even the most contentious, and then help the parties explore and expand their common ground into a base for an agreement to bring their case to an amicable and agreed upon conclusion.

Mediation is confidential (what’s said in mediation stays there), private (usually conducted in the mediator’s office) and safe (a party can be required to attend mediation but he or she cannot be compelled to make an agreement there).

Is it for every family law case? No, it’s not but it is appropriate in many if not most cases. As practiced in Texas, family law mediation is usually done on one day, in one sitting, with both parties and their attorneys present but not in the same room. Whether it is right for your case is a matter you should take up with your attorney. What’s important for now is to know that mediation is an available tool that can be very effective if used properly, with adequate preparation, and at the right time in your case.

Mark Lewis
Lewis, Passons & Darnell, P.C.

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