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The increasing role of mediation in Texas divorce cases

With backlogged cases, the legal community in Texas, and in other states, has welcomed the use of mediators in order to resolve divorce disputes. While mediation started out in a role similar to holistic healing, the benefits of using a mediator have become well recognized, making it one of the most common tools for couples filing for divorce today to use.

A neutral third-party

In business, arguments over contract contents and fights between companies and their employees, or customers, often are resolved through mediation. In the 1970s the idea of having a neutral third-party moved from the boardroom to the divorce arena. While it took a couple of decades for the idea to take hold, now many divorces are commonly resolved through a mediator.

Since a mediator has no personal interest in the couple’s case, he or she can act as a guide as the couple decides issues such as:

  • Child custody
  • Property division
  • Child support
  • Spousal support

Mediator’s agreement is binding

One thing that couples in Texas should keep in mind is that agreements drafted by a mediator are legally binding. This means that once a couple has come to an agreement, a document is created and signed. It is then presented to a judge for execution.

However, last year a mediated, family law case was brought before the Texas Supreme Court , but has not yet received a ruling. The case examines whether the lower courts have the right to refuse a signed mediated child custody agreement if it could put a child in harm’s way. Two judges refused to enter an agreement obtained through mediation when the father objected to the document and told them that his ex-wife’s husband was a sex-offender who allegedly abused the child subject to the agreement.

Furthermore, according to the American-Statesman, the father claimed that the daughter had slept in the same bed with her mother and new step-father and that the man was naked at the time. As a result, the judges ruled that the agreement would not be in the child’s best interest. The mother’s attorney says that the judges had no right to make that kind of decision while the father’s attorney and the state’s attorney general say that the judges were right to reject the agreement.

Value of mediation

Overall, mediation is a valuable tool that can enable couples to work together for a non-adversarial solution rather than hashing out their differences in the court room. A mediator does not make decisions for the couple, but rather guides and controls their discussion to ensure that emotions stay out of the negotiations and to make sure that each spouse is able to present their concerns and demands.

People in Williamson County who are going through a divorce may want to consider meeting with a lawyer that offers mediation to make their divorce process a smooth one.