A Cost Effective and Expeditious Way to Divorce Amicably
Divorce can be hard on both the divorcing parties’ emotions and their wallets. There is an alternative to traditional divorce litigation which may ease the emotional strain of a divorce and can be more cost effective in comparison to the traditional divorce process. That alternative is mediation. The Texas Bar Association defines mediation as a common dispute resolution method used to facilitate the reaching of an out of court settlement between two parties.
Over the years, mediation has been used increasingly in divorce and custody matters since it permits the parties to make final decisions instead of leaving decisions up to the Texas courts. It also enables parties to handle their divorce in a private environment and create customized plans which fit their needs, not just boiler plate guidelines from the state.
There are multiple benefits to mediation over traditional divorce. First, mediation can avoid a bitter contentious court room battle thereby promoting post-divorce harmony between the parties. Second, mediation may make a divorce easier on children of the marriage. Children often suffer emotionally as the result of a contentious divorce. Third, mediation may expedite a settlement agreement which is preferable to prolonged litigation. Fourth, mediation enables the parties to make the final decisions as to property and custody issues rather than leaving them up to a court. Finally, mediation is praised for its cost effectiveness given that the cost of mediation is considerably less than the cost of traditional divorce litigation.
The actual mediator’s role is to be neutral and not represent either party to the divorce. Mediators are not allowed to give legal or financial advice to either party. A mediator is not acting as a judge nor is the mediator able to dictate any terms to either party. Instead, the mediator’s role is to encourage the parties to reach an agreement by talking through options, considering the strengths and weaknesses of both parties’ cases, the costs of litigation versus the merits of a settlement, etc.
Mediation is not required to produce an agreement. Indeed, in some instances, the parties simply cannot reach an agreement with each other. In that event, traditional divorce litigation is the only realistic option. If an agreement is reached during mediation, the parties will sign a binding written contract that will be enforceable in the Texas courts.
It is a good idea for the divorcing parties to each have their own attorneys who will be present during the actual mediation. This ensures that the parties’ respective interests will be protected during the process as they will have legal advice provided on every offer and option discussed.
Some mediators are more active in the process than others depending on their personalities. At Divorce Strategies Group we play a very active role in the mediation process. We first meet with both parties to explain the process and confirm both parties are committed to mediation. Next, we gather a list of financial items which enables us to create a martial inventory for the parties. We then meet with each party individually walking through the estate matters and potential division options. This also creates an opportunity to discuss what life will look like after the divorce for each individual – how much will you potentially receive in assets? Where will you be financially? Can you afford to keep the home? What is your tax situation? While we are not giving tax or financial advice, we are providing information to help you make informed decisions. We then bring in a family law attorney for each party to discuss children’s issues including a parenting plan and financial issues with your children. The attorney will also review the estate and potentially offer alternatives or guidance. Each party will have their own attorney who will act as an advocate for them. While the mediator is a neutral party, your attorney is your advocate in the process providing legal counsel and guidance for you.
If you are considering a divorce and wonder if mediation is right for you, schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation today with Divorce Strategies Group. We encourage you and your spouse to attend the consultation to learn about how this process may help you navigate the waters of divorce in a gentler, softer manner.