In Texas, divorce mediation is a confidential process where a neutral third person (the mediator) helps divorcing couples reach a divorce settlement. The mediator facilitates communication between the parties to promote settlement and understanding between them. Mediation addresses child custody, child support, visitation, spousal support, and property division. The mediator does not act as a judge, attorney, or financial advisor, but assists the spouses in reaching a voluntary agreement.
Denise French founded Divorce Strategies Group, LLC in 2014 and since that time we have continuously guided clients through the divorce and mediation process. We believe mediation is an excellent tool for divorcing couples, especially when there are contentious issues. Our goal is to help you reach a satisfactory agreement with your spouse, without having to endure a lengthy, costly trial. Save time! Save money! Get on with your life.
How does Mediation work in a Texas Divorce?
The goal of mediation is to work through all the issues of your estate and the issues with minor children. An attempt at mediation is strongly recommended and often even required in many Texas counties. In mediation, you will most likely be in separate rooms while your mediator(s) walk in between the rooms. Sometimes, the parties will be in the same room, if they wish to be and it is productive. Without minor children, expect to mediate for a half day. When minor children’s issues are involved, expect to spend an entire day in mediation. At the end of mediation if agreements have been reached a binding, legal document called a Mediated Settlement Agreement or MSA will be signed by everyone. This document is irrevocable and binds your agreements legally. The fight is, in essence, over at this point which typically brings much peace and relief. The MSA is also a tool used to push your agreements through the court system as a judge cannot typically overturn a property drafted MSA.
After the MSA is completed a divorce decree will be drafted by an attorney which reflects the agreements you made in mediation. The divorce decree (which you will review and also need to sign) along with the MSA are presented to the judge in court (or remotely due to COVID-19) and used to finalize your divorce. The mediation document is usually 6 – 10 pages long while your actual divorce decree is 30 – 50 pages long.
Why Should I Use Mediation to Settle our Divorce Conflict?
Mediation is flexible – While we have a process, we acknowledge every family and every divorce is different.
Mediation is future oriented – We are going to focus on where you are headed, not where you have been. Everyone in divorce has some type of pain or fear. We understand and we are happy to listen and help you heal. However, in mediation we will focus on the future.
Mediation works – Mediation has a high success rate, especially when both spouses are open to compromise.
Your information is protected – Mediation is confidential.
You and your spouse are in control of the outcome – Your future in not the hands of a judge hearing only a tiny fraction of your life story.
What sets our firm apart?
The founder of Divorce Strategies Group, LLC, Denise French, has been divorced herself and understands what you are going through! Her divorce was costly and long. Sadly, it was also damaging to her family, her finances and her children. She strives to help litigants avoid the heartache her family endured. This is personal for her. Denise is not a lawyer. She is a financial expert in litigation and fully understands divorce finance in Texas.
Denise works alongside several family law attorney mediators. These mediators, along with Denise, will walk you through every aspect of your child issues and your financial issues to help you achieve a win-win solution for your family. Our partner attorney mediators are Denise Khoury of Guajardo, Khoury Family Law and Manny Caiati of Caiati Law & Mediation.
The decisions you make in mediation will have lasting, lifelong ramifications for your children and/or your lifestyle and financial wellbeing. We have a proven, 7 step process which involves the help of a financial expert and a family lawyer – both of whom are also mediators. Together, this is a place where you can work through all the child custody issues as well as the financial issues without the fight in court and with proper guidance.
“I’ll get my day in Texas divorce court!” ……. “The judge won’t like what you did!” …….. “I’m going to spread your dirt all over the courtroom!”
We’ve all heard someone say these things. Guess what…You really don’t want your day in court! Here’s why:
Expensive Legal Fees
The longer you drag out the process, the more your estate will suffer. You could spend $50,000, $60,000 or more on the divorce process and that is less money for you to divide! Wouldn’t you rather use that money for…hmmm…ANYTHING ELSE?? Texas divorce court costs so much money because there is so much preparation. Court is war. You want your attorney (or lead warrior) to be fully prepared which requires time and information. We’ve seen multiple families spend $50,000, $60,000, $100,000 or more on their divorce. Fighting just to “get him” or “nail her” could likely just transfer your kids college funds into your lawyer’s kids’ college funds without much for you to show for it.
Time in “Limbo”
Divorce is beyond painful. I know!! I’ve been there. I’ve sat in front of the judge and even though I “won” that battle, the war was lost by everyone in our family. It was excruciating. I know there could have been a better way to achieve the same goal without the long, drawn out battle which cost us so much effort, time, energy and hurt our child. As long as you are in the process of divorce, it will be impossible for you to begin the process of healing and moving on with your life. Ask yourself how much time you really want to spend in this “limbo” state.
A Stranger Deciding the Future of your Family
The stranger in the black robe that has never met you, your spouse, or your children will be deciding your future and more importantly your children’s futures! To make it worse, they’re basing these decisions based on a fraction of information they’ve been given about your life…and then a fraction of THAT is what they’ll actually consider relevant. Frightening!
In most Texas counties, you will be required to attend mediation before the court will hear your case. For the reasons stated above, embrace the idea of creating solutions for your future that will work for both of you. This is your chance to keep control of what you really want while creating a cooperative environment of giving your spouse what’s important to them as well. There is a solution – it may take hours to get there, but there is a solution. You only need the right people to help you find creative settlement options. You need a strong attorney and if your estate is of any significant size and/or you are middle age or older, you’ll need a financial expert helping you as well.
Preparing for Mediation
Your attorney is your strongest ally and support. They are there for legal counsel and guidance. You hired them, now trust them! They know the law, the court you are in, and have walked through thousands of divorces before you.
A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst or CDFA®
While attorneys know the law and the courts, a CDFA knows divorce finance and tax. We are financial advisors specifically trained to work with divorcing clients. I’ve been the client so not only do I understand the work professionally, I understand it personally. When you have property, investment accounts, savings accounts, retirement accounts, etc., it’s important to realize how you split things today will have a significant effect on your future. We have saved clients thousands of dollars in tax savings, helped create win-win solutions, and provided peace of mind by using the settlement options in mediation to create financial plans. We help you by working out those details in mediation before you sign an agreement. Leave mediation knowing you made informed financial decisions and with a clear vision of your future.
If you’re facing Texas divorce court, call Divorce Strategies Group!! You only have one chance to get the estate division right – having a financial expert on your team just makes sense!
Typically, if someone wants out of a marriage, you hire lawyers, dig up dirt, try to get all you can out of the estate and battle it out. The lawyer’s role is to advocate for the spouse that hired them, with the goal of achieving the most favorable outcome for their client. Divorce attorneys are the best people in the world when you need someone to fight for you!! We work with many and we love them.
But what if you don’t need to go to war? What if you just need sound guidance through the process of dividing the estate and determining how to live in separate homes with your shared children? What if you want to think through the issues instead of battling them out? What if you and your spouse are divorcing but you are still levelheaded and talking to each other? If this describes you, mediation for marriage dissolution may be an alternative to dueling it out in court for you.
Mediation as a venue for divorce is different. A mediator is a neutral third-party who can interview each party, review relevant documents, and help both parties understand what is fair and realistic in their situation. The goal of mediation is to help couples efficiently resolve issues that may be in conflict and eventually come to an agreement satisfactory to both parties. The divorce mediator actively facilitates the negotiations, but the spouses have full control and authority over the decisions affecting their lives. This can save time, money and emotional turmoil.
In our mediation process, couples have two choices: they may work with the mediator and hire one attorney for guidance and filings; or each party works with the one mediator and each party hires their own attorney.
In my own case, I hired an attorney as I wanted and needed legal guidance. My former spouse and I worked together with the mediator to help divide our assets and determine what we do with our children. My attorney reviewed everything before I signed it. I had my own legal advocate under the structure of the mediation process which provided me with a level of comfort, safety and security. My former spouse also chose to have an attorney review the documents prior to signing them.
Planning Your End Game – The Kids
Far and away, this was first on the list of the many benefits of divorce mediation for me. As a parent, I knew divorce was going to be tough. It could have been even tougher on my kids. However, we discussed our issues as parents, instead of litigants, which enabled us to outline the terms of our settlement, including time sharing and child support, so that we both stayed focused on what’s truly best for our children.
Let’s face it, like it or not, I still must have a parenting relationship with my children’s father. There were times when I had to remind myself that I love my children more than I love my pride and chose not to use them as a weapon to hurt their Dad. This can be a bitter pill to swallow, especially if you’ve been deeply wounded in the relationship.
I was very concerned that my kids would think they caused the rift, that my son would think he had to take the role of dad to his younger sibling, or that either child couldn’t talk about their feelings with me. The biggest gift for my children during the divorce process was being open to their questions, acknowledging their pain, and even when it was hard, have a civil parenting relationship with their dad. They didn’t choose my divorce and neither did I. Their father chose to leave so I have made the best out of a poor choice he made. A large part of my ability to do this daily is because we chose to mediate our parenting schedules. I would not fight over my children, make them suffer, or have a judge decide when I could and could not see my kids. Mediation gave me the option of staying in control over my kids and their lives.
Planning Your End Game – Time
When you look at the choice of a divorce mediation versus traditional divorce, mediated divorces typically take significantly less time. Typically, the traditional divorce process will take 6-12 months while the mediation process for divorce takes 2-3 months. In mediation we had a set process and schedule. We filed for divorce so the standing orders as my lawyer explained were in effect. For me, this meant my bills were paid and life was ‘status quo’ for that time frame. He lived in the guest bedroom and I kept the master bedroom in the same home during the process. We shared our information with the one mediator, and she created a division plan. We each met with her individually, so she knew what each of us wanted and needed, during and after the divorce. We then met together with the mediator for our negotiation session where agreements were highlighted, and disagreements mediated. We chose to include attorney’s in this session which meant at the end we had a binding, legal document. Boom! We were done with the uncertainty and the negotiations. My former spouse then had a plan to move out, we divided our accounts, child support began, and my new life started.
In my case, I couldn’t get divorced fast enough. Once my ex-husband told me he wanted to leave, he couldn’t have left soon enough. The thought of waiting almost a year to get a divorce seemed unthinkable. That meant a year in limbo with an uncertain future and no way to plan a new path for myself. The state of Texas mandates a 60-day waiting period from filing for divorce until you can be divorced. It was in those 60 days that we worked through the process. By day 65, my mediation agreement had been signed, divorce papers were submitted into the court system, and I had started an entirely new chapter in my life.
Planning Your End Game – The Cost
Divorce attorney retainers typically range from $3,500 to $10,000 per person. So, if you work with lawyers in traditional litigation, you’re looking at spending a minimum of $7,000 to $20,000 of the family’s estate for your divorce case initially and that’s just the beginning. The cost of divorce only goes up from there, especially if disagreements and court encounters ensue. If you use mediation, you can potentially save thousands on your divorce. The typical cost of a mediated divorce in our office, for a family can range from $7,000 to $14,000 including attorney’s fees. For my family, mediation cost us money, but it was a fraction of what we could have spent in the traditional litigation process. The typical traditional, litigated divorces we see in our office today cost the families anywhere from $15,000 to over $100,000. The price of this battle can be staggering. I didn’t want that for my family.
I had been a stay at home mother for 12 years, whereas my ex-husband was a 6-figure earner. I was fortunate enough during our marriage to stay home with my kids and support him in his growing career. The problem was when we separated, I had no college degree, no formal training and a 12-year gap on my resume. Even with a full-time job, I could not afford to stay in my home, pay for after school childcare, or even afford my car payment. I was terrified of spending all of our savings in litigation, being awarded half of whatever was left over, and still having to uproot my kids to live somewhere more cost-effective. This was a very large contributing factor to why I chose mediation.
Planning Your End Game – Your Future
The process of mediation allowed both of us to be fully empowered by educating us on how to handle child rearing, separation or dissolution of assets, future expenses, and other issues. During emotional upheaval, there is the temptation for me to just let someone else handle it. Fortunately, I knew I could not do this with my future and with my children. As we worked together with our mediator, we both felt heard, understood, and responsible for every aspect of our divorce.
As my lawyer explained Texas divorce, I was distraught to learn the laws in Texas really didn’t protect a stay at home parent. I had spent 12 years as a stay at home mom, built a family, and helped build my ex-husband’s career. What was the judge going to give me for it? Pretty much nothing, in my opinion. I soon realized that there was no way that I could have maintained our current lifestyle or household for more than a few months with 50% of our assets. I would have had to sell our home, sell my car, and go into debt to support my children on what I would be earning at a full-time job that didn’t require a degree. My ex-husband, conversely, would be able to maintain his current lifestyle, earn six figures and continue to advance his career. The tables were very much tipped in his favor and I felt that it was completely unjust. My mediator helped me make a plan that helped me build my future. This changed everything for me.
Divorce Mediation in Texas
Now that you know a little more about mediation and how it works, you have more information to help you decide what the best choice is for your family. Divorce is common but you’ll soon learn that each divorce is unique. If your goal is to divorce amicably, maintain a good parenting relationship with your soon to be former spouse, and not spend a small fortune, mediation may be for you!
For divorce mediation in Texas, contact Divorce Strategies Group. We offer a variety of services and options in a range of prices for you and your needs. Continue to visit us at www.DivorceStrategiesGroup.com for helpful articles and bits of information on divorce finance and mediation. We also offer one free 30-minute consultations to anyone facing or considering divorce. Contact us to schedule your complimentary consultation today!
With the increasing popularity of Pinterest, the concept of “do-it-yourself” or “DIY” projects have become enticing for many. I don’t consider myself to be the least bit crafty but have taken on daunting projects like painting kitchen cabinets (I swear, never again) all in the interest of saying, “Wow – look what I did! And I saved a lot of money!”
When DIY Divorce in Texas is the Only Option
In some cases, however, DIY divorce in Texas is necessary and the only option. Consider for example couples who are going through divorce and simply don’t have the financial means to get professional assistance. They are reliant upon DIY divorce documents and are faced with navigating complicated legal issues reduced to fill-in-the-blank forms. It’s a means to an end, albeit less than ideal.
As soon as you begin to contemplate divorce, the nauseating, panic-attack-inducing realization of losing half of your net worth kicks in and you find yourself wondering if it’s even worth it to consider leaving if you’re just going to end up broke and starving. Mediation may not even be an option in your mind, but it should be.
You may know what’s in your estate but have no idea how to make divorce work financially. You may have no idea of what’s in your estate, and you are scared to death of leaving and becoming homeless.
There are ways to ensure that your financial future is not destined for disaster. First and foremost, be sure you involve a financial advisor who specializes in divorce on your team so that you will be fully informed of all the creative settlement possibilities that may be open to you.
A couple married 41 years came to me together last year for assistance with their divorce. They were completely amicable but had significant net worth and unsure of how to divide their estate. Several attorneys had told them to “just split it 50/50”. This couple not only had significant net worth in investments, but they also owned a business and multiple commercial properties. The husband was distraught at the thought of giving his wife half of his business. The wife didn’t work day to day in the business and it took special skills and licenses to operate the entity, plus this was something he had built from the ground floor up. His heart was in the business. Some of the commercial properties were rented and under contract with tenants which the husband had created. The other commercial properties were in areas that were currently depressed, not very safe and the husband had been trying to sell them for years. The couple just didn’t feel dividing it down the middle was the smart thing to do. They were referred to me to explore options.
After gathering all their financial documents and completing my analysis, I put together two reports for the clients. The first reflected an exact 50/50 split. This gave the wife half of everything for an even 50/50 split. The second was my creative settlement solution that resulted in a net 60/40 split but took into consideration tax planning and consequences as well as the needs of each party as they planned for the next phase of their lives.
In my creative mediation settlement option, the husband kept 100% of his business entity, the rental properties and the wife kept 100% of the investable assets. She walked away with 40% of the estate, but no business risk, no need to ever work again, and a financial plan that provided her with enough income to live day to day in a paid off house and travel internationally several times each year. Part of her investments were put in products that provided guaranteed income for life and the other in investments that can keep up with inflation. She had protection, safety and a solid financial plan. He had the business he wanted and the rental properties which he also wanted.
Needless to say, the couple was thrilled to pay my mediation bill knowing that I had found a way for the husband to keep the assets he wanted and the wife with enough assets to live comfortably for the rest of her life.
Don’t go into this blind. There are so many ways to ensure that BOTH of you get to keep more of your own money. Get the right experts on your team. We’d love to help you have a Divorce Done Different! Call us today.