What Is Mediation?

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that is often used when couples have
difficulty coming to an agreement on various aspects of divorce, including child custody (increasingly referred to as parenting time in Texas). It differs from taking a case to court in significant ways.

In a court case, each parent could have their own attorney who will argue their case and try to convince the judge that their proposal is the best one. It can quickly become contentious. However, in mediation, an impartial third party who has no vested interest in one side or the other works with both parents to try to negotiate and compromise. Often, the mediation starts with the parents in separate rooms. The mediator takes turns spending time with each parent, hearing their thoughts and wishes, and then takes information to the other parent.

The value of this approach is that it can help antagonistic situations calm down and help each parent become less entrenched in their positions. Hence, the possibility of positive collaboration is stronger. The mediator tries to help each parent see the other parent’s point of view, and they may offer suggestions that neither parent has thought of.

Not all mediations succeed, and those cases usually end up in court. However, mediations that do succeed are often calmer and more straightforward and allow each parent to feel heard and respected. In the end, each parent can focus on what’s best for the child.

If the couple reaches an agreement via mediation, the mediator doesn’t have the authority to make it legally binding. But they can draw up the details and present them to the family law court. Most of the time, the judge there will accept the mediation results and sign off on them unless there’s some apparent lack of fairness.

Is Mediation Required in Child Custody Cases in Texas?

Overall, Texas family law doesn’t require mediation. However, there are many judges who do, and they have the ability to not grant a trial to the couple until they’ve gone through mediation. This is not meant to be punitive to the parents; the judges have seen how difficult some parenting time negotiations can be and think mediation may help things move along more smoothly and with less antagonism.

Will We Be Happy with the Mediation Results?

There’s no guarantee of complete happiness. What many couples find is that they’re relieved to come to the end of what might have been a protracted disagreement, even if they didn’t get everything they wanted. They’re ready to finalize the divorce and move into the post-marriage portion of their lives. Mediation may allow them to do that more quickly and smoothly.

If Our Judge Ordered Us to Undergo Mediation, What Are Some Tips to Help it Be Successful?

If the divorce has been going on long enough that there are emotional wounds on both sides, the idea of continuing negotiations in good faith may seem ludicrous. But approach the mediation with the idea that this is your chance to be heard without your soon-to-be ex interrupting or getting angry. It’s a chance to talk to someone who’s impartial and will listen carefully to what you have to say. There are several other tips that can help mediation conclude successfully.

  • Keep an open mind. This can be so difficult, and if you’re struggling with it, don’t hesitate to tell the mediator. They may have ways to help you through it.
  • Keep your child’s best interests as the primary objective. It’s easy for one parent to demand the most time in a parenting time arrangement, but if they view it through the lens of their child, they may realize that that’s not the best solution. Family law court focuses heavily on the child’s best interests, so when parents do that as well, it may be easier to arrive at an agreement.
  • Don’t badmouth anyone, especially the other parent, or use a loud voice or interrupt the mediator. This can be difficult, but it’s vital for the mediation to go smoothly so that each parent remains as civil as possible, even if they’re not in the same room.
  • Enter mediation reminding yourself that negotiation and compromise are necessary. If there are aspects of parenting time that you prioritize highly, consider the possibility that you may have to cede other aspects to the other parent. Discuss your options with the mediator, who may have suggestions you haven’t thought of.
  • Be honest. If you’re frustrated or afraid to speak your thoughts, say so.
  • If you feel you’re being pressured to accept an agreement that’s not right for you, say so. You may need more time to discuss it with the mediator or family law attorney.
  • When looking at parenting time, be sure to account for all irregularities. There are weeks that go by where nothing is different–the child goes to school, the child comes home, and then it’s the weekend–but plan for things like holidays, school breaks, and unexpected situations (for example, the death of a grandparent where the parent may want to take the child to the funeral).

What Should I Do if I Need Help with Child Custody Arrangements?

Call the Cutrer Law Group at 817-813-8513 for a free case evaluation. Divorce is a stressful life event, and even more so when making parenting time arrangements is required. Our team of experienced, knowledgeable, and compassionate divorce attorneys understands how important it is to you to remain in your child’s life. We can examine your case and help decide on the best approach.