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Ask a Divorce Lawyer: What to Expect During Mediation

If you’re from the Sugar Land, TX area and are in the process of divorcing your spouse, you may be considering going the route of divorce mediation. You probably already know how the overall divorce process works, but understanding mediation is an entirely different issue altogether. We’ve outlined for you specific things that you can expect during your upcoming mediation process.

Ask a Divorce Lawyer: What to Expect During Mediation

Beginning Mediation in Sugar Land, TX

There are a couple of ways that you and your spouse could end up in mediation during your divorce. You certainly can voluntarily decide upfront to enter mediation in an attempt to avoid a lengthy court process. In this case, you would probably arrange for mediation before filing any agreements with the court.

But in many cases, a judge will actually order couples to attempt mediation during the divorce process to allow them to mutually agree on the best path forward for themselves and any children they may share. The hope is that both parties will be more willing to hold to an arrangement they chose than they would be to one that was court-ordered by a judge.

Getting a Mediator

In most voluntary mediation cases, you and your spouse will need to mutually agree on a neutral party to help guide your discussions. Court-ordered mediation may allow this choice as well, or a judge may choose to appoint a mediator for you. Either way, the mediator is intended to be a neutral person who represents the interests of both people, rather than being on the side of one or the other.

Mediators tend to be lawyers, marriage counselors, social workers, or even psychologists who can help guide this process. They are not there to make the decisions for you but instead are there to impartially help you and your spouse talk through any disagreements you may have. They are there with the sole purpose of helping you to work towards reasonable and practical outcomes that benefit both parties equally.

The Different Stages of Mediation

The first step of the mediation process involves an orientation between you, your attorney, the mediator, and the opposing parties. This session is when your mediator will give rules for how your sessions will proceed, including expectations of how each party will conduct themselves during the discussions. Generally, mediators will expect calm and even-tempered conversations throughout this process.

After the orientation, your mediator will work with both parties to arrange additional sessions. These will be opportunities to identify key issues that need to be agreed upon. Once this information is gathered, your mediator will then begin to guide conversations related to issues such as the division of communal property, the needs of any shared children, child custody arrangements, spousal support or alimony, and other similar factors.

Once the issues have all been identified and discussed, the mediator can guide you through negotiations to reach a decision. In most cases, neither party will get 100% of the things they ask for. Come prepared to compromise and have reasonable expectations as to what you will achieve from this process.

Reaching an Agreement

If you and your spouse can reach an agreement during your mediation sessions, your mediator may help you to draft a written agreement outlining the terms you have discussed. Both parties will then sign the agreement, which is legally binding. This means that neither party can go back on their word at a later date. 
Mediation does not require a decision to be made, however. If you and your spouse are unable to agree, your case will proceed into a formal trial where the judge may make a final decision.

Proceeding After Mediation

If you successfully reach a decision in your mediation, your divorce lawyers in Sugar Land TX will then submit the final paperwork to the judge. The judge will then review the documents and will generally approve the divorce on the agreed-upon terms. They can refuse the terms, however, if there is any reason to suspect the decision was reached unfairly or isn’t in the best interest of shared children.

If you have not successfully reached a decision during your mediation sessions, your case will then proceed to a traditional court trial to continue the divorce process. Most mediators try to help couples avoid this, as it causes the process to be drawn out and may lead to unneeded stress for all parties involved.

Costs of Divorce Mediation

There are a variety of factors that determine final mediation costs. Costs vary based on where you live, as well as the combined income of you and your spouse. Both parties will be responsible for jointly sharing the costs, which are usually charged at an hourly or per-session rate by the mediator. Low-income couples can sometimes arrange mediation at free or reduced rates, as long as they meet income requirements.
The final costs will also depend on the overall complexity of your case and how long the process takes. The more sessions that it takes you and your spouse to reach a decision, the more the mediation will cost overall. However, mediation still tends to be a less expensive route than a drawn-out trial.

At the end of the day, mediation is an excellent option for couples to mutually agree on how to end their marriage. It can simplify the divorce process, and take a considerable amount of stress off of you as you navigate this new stage in your life. Go into your mediation prepared to communicate and compromise, and you will likely meet with success. 

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