If you are contemplating a Texas divorce, your life undoubtedly is in turmoil right now. Not only are all your hopes and dreams crashing around you, you and your spouse likely have numerous issues regarding your children, the possibility of spousal support, and how you will divide your marital property. Nevertheless, it is highly unlikely that either of you looks forward to an expensive, protracted and nasty divorce. Surely there must be a better, less stressful way to split up.
There is. Today, more and more divorcing couples are finding that mediation is the answer they are searching for. Unlike a traditional litigated divorce, mediation lets you and your spouse maintain control over your respective lives by making your own decisions, not leaving those decisions up to a judge.
Hiring a mediator
If you think that mediation is the right choice for you, the first thing you and your spouse must do is hire a mediator. This is a neutral person who represents neither of you, but rather is highly trained to act as your facilitator and “referee” while you resolve your own differences. Each of you has the opportunity to first meet with your mediator privately to lay out your issues, concerns and mediation goals. Then, your mediator provides a neutral, non-threatening environment, such as a conference room, where the three of you will begin meeting.
The number of meetings you will have depends on the complexity of your issues and how far apart you currently are on them. Some couples settle their differences in one or two meetings. Others require more. Regardless of how many meetings you require, mediation generally is far less time-consuming and often costs 40-60 percent less than a traditional litigated divorce.
The mediation process
The whole purpose of mediation is to give you and your spouse the opportunity to resolve all your issues yourself, including the following:
- Which of you will have custody of your children, or whether you prefer joint custody
- How much visitation the noncustodial parent will have and when, where and under what circumstances
- How you will divide your marital property in a fair and equitable manner
- Whether either of you will receive spousal support from the other and, if so, in what amount and for how long
- Whether you will sell your family home and split the proceeds, or if one of you and your children will continue to live there
Your mediator will make sure that each of you has the opportunity to fully express your views during your meetings, but only in a respectful, cooperative and non-threatening manner. Neither of you will be allowed to denigrate or intimidate the other. Instead, you will discuss, compromise and resolve your issues.
Just because you choose to mediate does not mean that you must forgo the services of an attorney. Either or both of you is free to hire your own attorney and have him or her present at your meetings. If necessary, you and your spouse may also wish to bring in other professionals such as a financial advisor, child psychologist, etc.
Once you and your spouse reach a negotiated agreement, it must be rendered in writing for both of you to sign. Some mediators provide this service, but many do not. The agreement must be filed in the court that has jurisdiction over your divorce. The good news, however, is that neither you nor your spouse may need to set foot inside a courtroom. Judges normally sign off on mediated agreements and issue a divorce decree without the necessity of speaking with the couple.
As long as you and your spouse both have a good-faith desire to engage in the mediation process and the willingness to negotiate as well as compromise with each other, mediation is often an effective, practical way to resolve your differences and obtain your divorce in the least stressful manner possible.