At Renken Law Firm, we strive to provide fair and inclusive legal services to every member of our community. Which has been reflected by OutSmart Magazine voting Renken Law Firm One of the Best Law Firms in Houston, two years in a row. One of the primary services we provide is divorce mediation for queer couples throughout the city.
What is Divorce Mediation?
In divorce mediation, you and your spouse meet with a trained, neutral mediator to discuss and resolve the issues in your divorce. Mediation sessions often take place in an informal office setting, but you might also be able to go through your mediation online.
A mediator can help you reach agreement on the issues you and your spouse need to resolve in order to finalize your divorce, such as child custody, child support, and property division. Mediators don’t make decisions or offer legal advice, but rather serve as facilitators to help spouses figure out what’s best for their situation.
When spouses reach agreement through mediation, most mediators will draft (and possibly file with the court) a divorce settlement agreement.
How Does the Process Work?
The mediation process is flexible and can be adapted to the needs of the couple getting a divorce. Sometimes a couple in the middle of litigation may decide to try (or may be required by the court to try) mediation to resolve their case before going to trial. In such a case, the parties likely already have attorneys and the information they will need to mediate, and they may spend an entire day in mediation trying to resolve all their issues fully and finally.
Other couples may consult a mediator on their own to help them divorce without consulting with attorneys first. In such a case, the couple and mediator are likely to meet in a series of mediation sessions, usually one to two hours long. That process could look something like this:
- First meeting: The couple and the mediator identify the issues in the divorce case that need to be discussed and the order in which they will be discussed. They then decide what information needs to be gathered and shared. Between the first and later sessions the couple gathers all relevant financial data, or, if necessary, the opinions of experts such as appraisers or accountants. These materials are treated with the same care and concern as they would see in an adversarial divorce process.
- Further Meetings: Discussions revolve around how to compromise on the various issues in order to meet the needs of both parties. The mediator assists by providing information about the court system and common ways divorce issues are resolved in a divorce settlement.
- The Agreement: When an agreement has been reached on all issues, the mediator drafts the agreement for review by each of the parties and their attorneys.
How Do You Complete Your Texas Divorce After Successful Mediation?
After you’ve signed a mediated settlement agreement, the final divorce paperwork will have to be prepared and filed, including:
- the proposed final divorce decree, and
- a motion to enter a judgment based on your agreement.
- Your lawyer can do this for you, if you have one. Some mediators might also be able to help file the paperwork.
When your mediated settlement agreement meets the requirements discussed above (including the statement that it can’t be changed), Texas law says that you are entitled to a final divorce decree that follows the terms of the mediated settlement. That’s true whether the mediation took place before you filed for divorce or during the divorce proceedings.
This rule has only two exceptions. The first is if the judge finds that the settlement was illegal or resulted from fraud, duress, or coercion. The second exception is if the agreement isn’t in a child’s best interests, and either:
- a spouse’s decision-making was impaired due to being a victim of domestic violence, or
- the agreement allows unsupervised access to a child by a parent with a history of physical or sexual abuse.
Unless one of those circumstances applies, the judge may not refuse to enter a divorce decree based on what a mediated settlement agreement says—even if the judge doesn’t believe it’s fair or in a child’s best interest.
It’s worth pointing out that these Texas rules on mediated settlement agreements do not apply to agreements that spouses reach outside of mediation, on their own or through their lawyers.
Your divorce will be final after the judge signs the final decree. The judge may not sign the decree until at least 60 days after you filed the initial divorce papers, except in certain cases involving family violence.
Inclusive Family Law Attorney in Houston, TX
Our team proudly serves the Greater Houston area. All marriages are different, making each divorce equally unique with its own set of needs that must be addressed. Our team is dedicated to helping you and your family move forward without legal matters complicating your life. Contact our law office to explore your options for traditional marriage divorce and common law divorce, and find out how we can help you resolve any legal problems you are currently facing.
Renken Law Firm, PLLC
11500 Northwest Fwy #586
Houston, TX 77092
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