The Texas Mediation Process Explained

In family law, mediation is usually less formal than going to trial (litigation), though the formality is decided by the parties before beginning the process and may follow certain guidelines if the parties choose to do so. Mediation is the preferred way to settle divorce, custody, or other family law issues because it takes less of the Court’s recesses. The process typically involves the following scenarios.

  • One party and their attorney are in one room;
  • The opposing party and their attorney are in another room;
  • Most of the time, the parties will not see each other during the mediation;
  • A mediator (a neutral person trained in mediation and preferably a skilled attorney hired for the purpose of conducting the mediation) goes back and forth between the rooms and tries to negotiate enough common ground to settle the case;
  • If the case is settled, a Mediated Settlement Agreement, which is a shorthand rendition of the parties’ agreement, is prepared;
  • A Final Order is prepared at a later date to include the required legal language and the specifics of the agreement, if appropriate.

Once signed, both sides are entitled to a Judgment on Mediated Settlement Agreement. That means if someone signs an MSA, he or she should not plan on getting out of the deal later.

There are 4 possible outcomes of a mediation:

  • Settlement of all of the issues,
  • settlement of some of the issues (leaving some to be tried to the Court),
  • recess (meaning you come back to continue mediating another time),
  • or impasse.

Most cases settle before they are tried, whether through alternative dispute resolution, mediation, or otherwise, and, generally, Judges will require mediation before trial.