“Family mediation” means the mediation of disputes in actions for divorce, annulment, establishment of paternity, child custody or visitation, or child or spousal support.
Mediation programs can be very beneficial to people who are divorcing as well as to those who have long been divorced but who find themselves in a dispute in their post-divorce relationship. Not only can it save money but it promotes positive dispute resolution rather than adversarial procedures. That being so, it is well worth investigating by any couple facing divorce, a child custody fight, a visitation dispute or other interpersonal conflict.
Mediation is a process that may help you resolve your case so you can have an uncontested divorce. Mediation is particularly useful in situations involving children, since it is in the interests of the children that their parents “get along” even if they will no longer live together as husband and wife. In the State of Texas, all cases that involve contested custody or visitation matters are referred to mandatory mediation, provided the parties are represented by an attorney and there is no allegation of domestic abuse.
Mediation attempts to change disputes from “win-lose” to “win-win.” Mediation is a non-adversarial process of helping people come to agreement on issues like parenting arrangements, support of children and spouses and division of real and personal property. Mediation occurs when a neutral third-party, who has training in dispute resolution, assists you and your spouse and helps you resolve the issues that are causing conflict and to make cooperative, informed decisions.
How does mediation work?
As one mediator described the process, “Mediation is neither therapy, nor the law””it’s an educational process.” Usually, the couple attends an orientation session in which the mediator thoroughly explains the process of mediation such as what the couple should focus on, how they should speak to each other (keep raised voices down), and so on. The session may last for two hours.
After the initial session, the couple attends three to eight one-and-a-half- to two-hour sessions in which the mediator will guide them to make their own decisions on how they wish to end their marriage. They analyze their budgets and needs, divide marital property, review their children’s needs, and reorganize their family and life-style to fit its new structure. Mediators place special emphasis on providing an acceptable form of continuity where children are concerned and may even include children in the sessions if warranted.
The process allows the parties to analyze their situations and to understand each other’s needs as well as those of the children. It may alleviate the anger and bitterness that the couples initially may feel toward each other. It also makes the couple realize that although they may not be husband and wife, they are still parents. It encourages their cooperation with each other in determining their relationship with their children.
Once the couple decides on what they wish to do, the mediator draws up a memorandum of understanding that specifies what issues have been resolved. This statement is then given to the couple’s respective attorneys, who will draw up a formal separation agreement based on the statement. Please note that many mediators are not lawyers and, therefore, may not consider all that should be necessary for a good separation agreement.
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