Mediation is a process in family law that is an informal settlement conference in which the parties come together to try to narrow the issues for purposes of a trial or to come to settlement to where you don’t have to go to court and go through the trial.
The presentation of evidence is in a open and public setting so mediation would be private for the most part. You’re not allowed to bring anyone, although if you have perhaps a business or you have a expert witness who has done a custody evaluation of the party’s child where the child would be placed or a forensic exam of the estate then that expert maybe permitted to go.
Professionals usually are permitted to go but your other witnesses, teachers that would testify on trial you generally don’t bring those folks to mediation.
Harris County in Fort Bend County all 13 of the courts will require mediation
Now in Harris County in Fort Bend County all 13 of the courts will require mediation before final trial and the majority of the 13 courts will require mediation before a temporary orders hearing on child custody.
So the courts will maintain a list of mediators that they will randomly choose mediators from if the parties cannot agree to a mediator. In Harris County you have the Domestic Relations Office and the Dispute Resolution Center which are free but income based.
At the Dispute Resolution Center you have attorney volunteers, While at the Domestic Relations office, you have to have children for them to take the case and then the mediators can be lawyers or social workers.
Now in Fort Bend County you have the Fort Bend County Dispute Resolution Center which is $50, but if you go above a certain income threshold on your income combined income then they would disqualify you, you have to pay for a mediator the average cost of a mediator is $350 to $550 dollars that’s basically a consumer type case the lowest I’ve seen is $250 and then they go up from there the highest is $900 former judge in Harris County.
Like I said you know the average cost is $350 to $550 and that would be a lawyer with five to ten years out who has tried a couple cases and that’s not unusual for that amount to be charged. Most of your mediators will mediate Monday through Friday from 9:00 to 5:00 although the biggest consumer mediator is Jane Joseph who does meditation 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. thus she will book up to three mediations a day Monday through Thursday, and then she’ll do some weekends on an occasion but I believe that’s usual with her.
Family law weekend mediation
And if you would like to mediate on the weekend or during the evening then that is not normal and so that may also result in a premium or an extra charge. What I found is when I have clients with unusual schedules I go to there’s a Social Media Group in Harris County on Facebook for Harris County and in the surrounding counties you can also find mediators as there’s several hundred lawyers in there and then several dozen mediators so it may be you want a mediator like in Brazoria county and Brazoria county has one of the former family law judges down there’s who I will go to, but you may want to shop around because it cost too much and so you would post that in the social group and then you know you would get feelers as to who is the who is the right fit for you.
Now preparing for a mediation you really need to have your documents there and be prepared to have a discussion like it would be like you’re going to trial but the presentation of evidence would not be ,it would be informal so will not be through a Question and Answer and you have objections but you would necessarily want to bring an inventory of all your assets coupled with so supporting documents to the inventory the current bank statements the current retirement statements the mortgage statement it’s the property, separate property.
The deed that shows that separate property you need to bring all that with you ,because the other side may say well “I don’t know you know we were living together and we bought the house and I thought that you know we filed taxes together that year so I think we’re common law married” so as you don’t know these things it’s better to bring it all there to prove your case.
With your child if you have children you’re going to need more likely than not your and need the school records you’re gonna need any health records any records on if there’s been some issues with mental health. So I’m acting out those counseling records, those recommendations.
Many times you have young children who you have the mother who is watching the children primarily, dad works and the kid will have a mouth full of cavities with some judges ,when mom says I should be primary because I’ve had the kid the whole time and then the judge says
“yeah but the kids got thirty cavities so that means you know you haven’t really been watching the child pushing sugar on them and not brushing their teeth”
And so that’s evidence of a real bad star for a child as far as you know if you can’t keep their teeth up used to say that kid is you know gonna pass kindergarten right, you can’t fail kindergarten in Texas.
My point is that the evidence that you would have for your trial but for your witnesses you would bring the mediation now in my case.
I am successful in about 65 percent of my mediations and you know I know there 20% of those that I would not be successful at mediation I settle on the courthouse steps, because then I get my witnesses I have my paperwork I bring my witnesses down there and we work it out.
So some mediators get on me because when I go to mediation I generally make them kind of work hard you know and they want me to be less rigid but it’s like it’s all or nothing.
Many times is your client wants the best for them and if they want the best for them that means being prepared and so if the other side’s not prepared then it’s like why are we here and we took the time to come here we did all this paperwork and I go to mediation all the time the other side doesn’t have an inventory they allege that the other side is not doing the things that they say they’re doing ,but we bring school records we bring things to the mediation which creates an inference that our position is good position and the other side brings oral accusations that their cases right and that the judge will give them everything and then okay well let’s go to trial and then a couple weeks later we settle on the courthouse steps, because they’re still not ready and then good 65% of them we settle and then out of that there’s another a fair amount that we end up taking into trial.
Now if you sign a mediated settlement agreement it’s very hard to set it aside while it’s possible to set it aside it is difficult I’ve posted one case here, In re Minix, 543 S.W.3d 446 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2018, no pet.) you can’t sign a mediated settlement agreement and come back in three days and say I was bullied into it. You have to have specific family violence and that family violence scared you, such that you signed off on this agreement.
I mean it’s possible but it’s not easy so as it’s not easy I get all the time folks come in and they say, I don’t like it I don’t want to do it. Then I ask, “did you have an inventory?” “who’s your lawyer?” this is my lawyer and I’m like “well you know you had a lawyer you may not have done your paperwork that you should have but that’s what you got so for me to set it aside would be “fantastical” and the side that represented your significant other, if I know that lawyer I’m gonna say you know that lawyer will be ready and you will likely loose when you try to set it aside and maybe have to pay the other side lawyers fee to defend a change of heart.
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