When it comes to divorce, people are clear on some of the steps in the divorce process— especially the kinds involving courtrooms and lawyers. But mediation is one of those routes that’s a little more nebulous for people.
Mediation is, simply put, a way to settle a divorce that involves someone designated to bring the parties together. That person is called a mediator, and the person serving as a mediator typically has experience as a lawyer or a former judge. The mediator’s job is to help bring both parties towards an agreement, commonly called a Mediated Settlement Agreement.
One of the things to keep in mind with mediation is that sometimes, it’s a court-ordered method of trying to resolve differences in a divorce from the judge overseeing a case. The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure still govern the proceeding in a mediation, just as in a court of law.
While it can be expensive — and some people are surprised by the fees for even a single half-day or full-day session — it can also be the most effective way for some couples to resolve the differences that are keeping them from formalizing an agreement.
I have also seen mediation cases bog down over surprising items that might seem trivial to outside observers, but matter a great deal to the people who are involved in a case. For instance, deciding which parent will maintain and apply for passports can take several hours to work out if both parties are determined to be the primary parent responsible for passports, or if one parent has a fear that the other parent will take the children overseas and not return with the children.
If you are ordered to go to a mediation, or choose to go to one yourself, know that you must maintain the same sort of decorum as you would in a courtroom, in that you should be dressed as you would for a job interview and treat the mediator and everyone involved with the utmost respect. The mediator has the ability to influence your case and get it to where a judge can finalize it, so it is important to treat the mediator with the same level of respect that you would have towards the judge hearing your case in his or her courtroom.
During the mediation, there might be some downtime during which the lawyers will be talking to the mediator or to each other, and your input isn’t needed at that moment. You might want to ask your attorney if you can bring your computer to the mediation, in case you have work that you can do on your laptop. It is important to know that you could be interrupted at any time during the mediation session.
Also, it’s a good idea to provide any relevant information to your attorney prior to your mediation date. If you’re going through a divorce, you should know at the outset about the importance of disclosing all of your assets and debts. This is necessary for your attorney to properly prepare for mediation and work up your case. If you don’t disclose this information to your lawyer, your lawyer will not be able to properly prepare, and it will be much more costly to you.
Additionally, part of the litigation process includes discovery, which means you and the other side will exchange information related to the divorce. In order for this process to work properly, you must share relevant information with your lawyer. With time being precious in a mediation, you don’t want to upset the process by withholding information prior to the mediation or suddenly revealing a case-changing bit of information in the midst of a mediation.
That said, though, you also want to make sure you’re respecting the process, which involves the mediator trying to make each party as happy as possible — which might mean some compromise — and making sure that issues are narrowed down to solvable pieces.
In that, though, remember that there are still lawyers involved, and that the parties are supposed to be separate throughout. This means your lawyer may recommend not communicating with the other party about different matters throughout the divorce process, and especially during mediation.
If you’re curious about mediation, think it might be an option for you, or you’re without a lawyer and suddenly need to head to mediation, contact the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance to learn more about the process and how it applies in particular to your case. We can walk you through what mediation requires, how it could help resolve your case, and what other routes exist for settling your specific case or divorce.