If you are a married Texas resident contemplating divorce, both you and your spouse, regardless of your issues and disagreements, no doubt dread the prospect of having to go through a lengthy, costly and possibly ugly court battle. You will be pleased and relieved to know that this is not necessary, and you have other divorce options open to you. Mediation is one of them.
As a matter of fact, most Texas courts will require you and your spouse to attempt mediation, especially if you have children, before you can go to court and obtain your divorce. While mediation does not work for all divorcing couples, it entails a much more amicable approach to divorce and costs substantially less than a litigated divorce. The American Bar Association says that a mediated divorce typically costs 40-60 percent less than a traditional divorce.
The mediation process
When you and your spouse decide to mediate, you hire a mediator, a highly trained neutral “referee” who represents neither of you. Instead, he or she acts as a facilitator for you and your spouse to negotiate and resolve your differences. After meeting with each of you separately and privately, the mediator then provides a neutral location for your negotiations to take place. In addition, he or she also ensures that each of you has ample opportunity to express your wishes, concerns and goals in a respectful, nonthreatening atmosphere that encourages you to cooperate, compromise and arrive at mutually agreeable decisions regarding such things as the following:
- Child custody, support and visitation
- Spousal support
- Marital property division
- Educational expenses if one or both of you needs to complete a college or post-graduate degree or enroll in a vocational training program so as to be able to obtain employment
- Real estate matters, such as which of you will remain in the family home, who will make the mortgage payments, or if the house will be sold and the proceeds divided between you
In addition, if you own a family business that both of you participate in, you can negotiate all issues related to it.
Even though mediation takes place out of court, the agreements you and your spouse reach are legally binding and enforceable in court. Either or both of you can hire your own attorney and have him or her participate in your mediation sessions if you so choose. In any event, an attorney will need to draft your agreement document(s) since the mediator seldom, if ever, provides that service.
Additional mediation benefits
Not only does mediation save you substantial money, it gives you additional benefits as well. One of the most important is that mediation allows you and your spouse to maintain control over your own lives. You are the decision-makers, not a judge. Consequently, both of you likely will be far more satisfied with the agreements you reach together, even though each of you had to compromise.
Since the whole purpose of mediation is for you and your spouse to iron out your differences in a respectful, nonthreatening and cooperative manner, you likely will experience considerably less stress than you would if you were battling him or her in court. Also bear in mind that mediation is completely private. To paraphrase an old television commercial, what happens in mediation stays in mediation.
Possibly the biggest benefit of mediation is the effect it has on your children. When they see you and your spouse treating each other cooperatively and agreeably, it provides them with the best possible role models for conflict resolution in their own lives. It also gives them a more positive outlook on their future. Rather than being terrified that they are going to lose one parent or the other because of the upcoming divorce, and that they will have to “take sides,” your amicable mediation process reassures them that both of you still love them and will remain integral parts of their lives. Since they love both of you, this reassurance is crucial to preventing the anxiety, depression and other negative conditions children often develop when their parents divorce.