It is the official policy of the State of Texas to promote amicable and non-judicial settlements of issues regarding children and families. In some cases, the Court requires that you mediate prior to a final hearing in an attempt to resolve your differences and sometimes your attorneys will decide that mediation is a viable option for your case. In mediation, you and your spouse and your respective attorneys meet with a mediator, a neutral third-party. The idea behind mediation is to have trained professionals help defuse the emotional tension between the two parties and find areas of agreement that the parties may not have realized existed.
In most meditations the parties do not see one another. They each have a room for themselves and their attorney. The mediator moves between the rooms conducting the negotiations. Occasionally, the mediation will begin with everyone in the same room. This is done to save time. The mediator generally makes announcements as to the rules of conduct and how mediation will be handled in the presence of both sides instead of repeating the same thing in each side’s room. Often the attorneys are invited to make remarks, though generally any remarks made are non-committal in nature. The mediator will take all necessary steps to make this a non-confrontational moment and will quickly move the parties to their private rooms.
Once the mediation has begun, the mediator will move between the parties carrying offers, counter offers, questions and answers. It is important to note that anything the parties or their attorneys tell the mediator is confidential. This allows both sides to be completely honest with the mediator which greatly increases their ability to help reach a resolution. The only exception to this rule is when the parties or their attorneys give the mediator permission to share information with the other side. This is often helpful for the mediator as it allows him or her to give the other side a clearer view of the case and the possible outcomes.
Mediators are professionals and they charge a fee for mediation. If you decide to pursue mediation or if the Court requires you to attend mediation, you will be required to pay for the mediator’s time as well as your attorney’s time. The mediators fee is not part of the retainer that was paid to your attorney.
The mediated settlement of a case is binding if it is signed by the spouses, and provides that the agreement is not subject to revocation. This means that if the parties sign the agreement they cannot change their mind later.