Whether you and your spouse are considering attending divorce mediation in Texas or a judge is ordering you to attend mediation, you might be wondering what you need to know about this process.
When you go to divorce mediation sessions, a neutral, trained professional will help you and your spouse communicate about important issues and hopefully come to an agreement about how you will deal with the contentious issues in your divorce. By attending divorce mediation and successfully reaching an agreement, you can potentially save money on your divorce, get divorced more quickly, and avoid the stress and conflict often associated with a contested divorce.
During mediation, you and your spouse will meet in person or virtually with a neutral, trained professional mediator.
Their role is to help the two of you come to an agreement about important issues in your divorce, such as how to divide property. They also help you create a written settlement agreement that reflects the agreements you made as a part of mediation.
You can use mediation in your divorce in Texas so long as both parties agree in writing or if the court refers the case to mediation.
You are not always required to use mediation in a Texas divorce, but a judge can order you to do so in either child custody cases or divorce cases.
Different counties have varying practices and policies when it comes to court-ordered mediation. In some counties, judges might order spouses to go to mediation in most or even all cases before things can proceed to a temporary or final hearing. Judges can even select a specific mediator for spouses to meet with, but this usually happens when the parties aren’t able to come to an agreement on a mediator on their own.
You can attend divorce mediation before filing for divorce or after you have filed at any point in the process. In some instances, a judge will order spouses to go to mediation before their divorce can be finalized.
You are free to go through mediation before you even file for divorce if both you and your soon-to-be-ex agree.
Going to mediation before a divorce can give you and your spouse the opportunity to come to an agreement about all divorce-related issues. This could allow you to get an “agreed divorce,” which is a type of uncontested divorce. Agreed divorces are simpler, faster, and less expensive than contested divorces.
There are many experts that recommend that people go to mediation as soon as possible when they know they are getting divorced. If you end up reaching a settlement during the process, you can benefit from the simpler divorce process associated with agreed divorces.
This also means that you could avoid hiring a lawyer as a part of your divorce, which is typically the most expensive part of getting divorced. Another advantage of attending mediation before you even file for divorce is that it can help reduce the conflict and stress that are often associated with contested divorces, which can be harmful and unpleasant for both spouses and any children involved in the marriage.
It’s possible that you and your spouse will decide to go to mediation once the process begins, or a court could end up ordering you to undergo mediation. You will need to inform the judge if you end up deciding to go to mediation after the case has begun.
Mediation is something you can do after the process has started, whether or not you have an attorney representing you. For more information about filing for divorce without a lawyer, read our post about DIY divorce in Texas.
In some cases, spouses find that they are more interested in the mediation option when more information has been revealed as a part of the discovery process. Discovery is a legal process that gives each spouse the ability to require the other to share certain documents and information.
Sometimes, judges will order spouses to attend mediation before they will allow you to have a final hearing for your divorce.
How much mediation costs in Texas depends on a number of different factors.
It’s worth noting that there are Dispute Resolution Centers in some Texas counties that provide low-cost or free mediation to couples. However, you normally have to meet specific financial requirements. For example, the Dispute Resolution Center in the largest county in Texas, Harris County, has eligibility requirements that include earning less than $80,000 a year combined and not owning any significant assets.
If you aren’t eligible for one of these cheaper mediation options, there are a number of factors that will influence how much mediation costs. These include:
Other factors that might impact the cost of mediation include whether you attend mediation in person or remotely or if there are extra charges and fees attached to the service offered by a specific mediator.
In general, the cost of private divorce mediation costs between $3,000 and $8,000. The typical hourly rate of attorney mediators is $250-$500 an hour, while non-attorney mediators usually charge between $100 and $350 an hour.
For more information about how much you should expect to pay when dissolving your marriage in the Lone Star State, check out our article about the cost of divorce in Texas.
There are usually three stages in Texas divorce mediation. That being said, there aren’t specific rules or laws in Texas about how this process takes place beyond its requirements regarding mediated agreements.
These three stages are:
Mediators help spouses prepare an agreement in writing that outlines the decisions that were made during the negotiation part of the process. As soon as the document is signed by both spouses (and their respective attorneys if they have them), this contract is legally binding in the state of Texas. However, in order to be valid and binding, it needs to include a statement that the agreement is “not subject to revocation” in a prominent way (meaning it is capitalized, underlined, or boldfaced.)
This is a statement that communicates that neither you nor your spouse can change your mind about the agreement once it is signed. The provisions laid out in the agreement must be followed by both of you even before the divorce is finalized. This is the case whether the agreement was signed as a part of court-ordered meditation or voluntary mediation session.
You are never required to reach an agreement, even if you are attending court-ordered mediation. Mediators do not have the ability to force you to find a solution to the issues at hand.
If the process of mediation does not result in the settling of all of your disputes, your divorce will proceed to the litigation phase unless you are able to find a solution to the unresolved issues before that point.
Mediation can be a great solution for couples that are unable to come to an agreement about important issues in their divorce on their own. It is ideal to avoid the litigation stage of a divorce case if possible– it makes the whole process a lot more expensive and a lot more time-consuming, not to mention more unpleasant and stressful.
No matter where you are in the process of divorce, knowing your rights and responsibilities under the law can be incredibly empowering. For more information about family law in Texas, be sure to check out our library of Texas divorce articles.