In almost every family law case in Tarrant County, TX, and many other places, the Court will require the parties to attend mediation before they can go to trial.
Mediation, as you may know, is a dispute resolution process outside of court. A neutral 3rd party works with both sides to help them reach an agreement on the issues they disagree about. The mediator does not make any decisions or rulings like a Judge. Instead, the mediator asks questions. The mediator helps the parties look at things differently and helps them focus on solutions.
Mediation is almost always successful. It sounds like a very simple process, but there are special reasons why it works. Here are some of them.
1. Neutral Expert. The mediator does not represent or work for one side or the other. The mediator seems to have more credibility with both parties because the mediator is neutral and has special training to gain skills needed to help people compromise and reach agreements with adversaries.
2. Quicker Answers. One reason why mediation can be successful is that it speeds up the negotiation process. Either the parties are all in direct communication in the same room or the mediator goes back and forth between separate rooms. Either way, the negotiations go much faster than discussions between attorneys in their own offices in different locations. It is much easier to keep the discussion going when there's little or no delay in waiting for a response.
3. Focus. Mediations are usually limited to a certain amount of time. Here, most mediations are for a day or a half day. As time passes, momentum seems to increase. When people realize they are running out of time, they often get more agreeable and are willing to compromise. Having the time limits does motivate people to get serious about settling.
4. Informality. Mediations are usually very informal. Most family law mediations in Texas are done with the parties in separate rooms. We don't follow the strict rules of evidence or procedure that are used in court. The informality allows the participants to be more comfortable and maybe more agreeable.
5. Controlled by the parties. There's no agreement unless both sides agree and accept the terms. The parties can create unique solutions and have results very different from what would have probably happened in court. The ability to fashion their own terms of agreement is one of the most important reasons why the process works. For most people, that is greatly preferred to just turning everything over to a Judge who doesn't know or care about either party.
These reasons explain part of the basis for mediation being so successful. If you have a family law case, you should plan for and look forward to your mediation!