Dallas Mediation Lawyers
Divorce & Family Mediation Firm in Dallas-Fort Worth
If you're interested in filing for a divorce, you've probably heard about mediation. Like collaborative divorce, divorce mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). However, divorce mediation is normally part of the litigation process, whereas collaborative law is a complete process for divorce.
At Hance Law Group, PC, we represent clients in mediation to help them pursue an optimal outcome in their divorce with minimal conflict. Our lawyers will work with you to build a comprehensive case strategy that protects and serves both your long-term and short-term interests.
How Does Mediation Work in Texas?
There are two primary kinds of mediation in Texas. The mediation model historically used in litigation disputes is the most common method. It offers the parties a chance to tell their stories to a neutral third party, the mediator, who assists both sides in reaching a resolution (and normally, both attorneys are present). However, the mediator cannot give either party legal advice. Mediation facilitates settlement and is less stressful than going to Court, which is why many Family Law Courts require prospective divorcees to attend mediation before allowing them to pursue divorce litigation in Court. In Texas, the mediator is normally an attorney.
At Hance Law Group, PC, we typically use mediators who are attorneys with experience in family law (frequently ex-judges) for this kind of mediation process. Mediation usually occurs in the mediator's office with a client and their attorney in one room and the other client and attorney in another room (called caucusing). The mediator caucuses with each side, taking proposals back and forth, to find each party's best compromise position. These mediations typically start in the morning and continue on the same day as long as necessary.
When an agreement is reached, the mediation attorneys draw up a Mediated Settlement Agreement (the "MSA"), which is irrevocable and enforceable if it meets the requirements outlined in the Texas Family Code. All parties and their attorneys sign this agreement just as if it were a divorce decree. The mediated settlement agreement is then incorporated into a Final Decree of Divorce, which is presented to the Court.
In contrast to collaborative law, the mediator and the lawyers do not share the risk of failing to settle. Further, the mediator only has limited influence on parties who are being unreasonable or stonewalling. This mediation model is also relatively expensive because the parties are paying the mediator's fee and their attorneys' hourly rates. However, if it settles, the costs of going to trial are eliminated.
Pre-Litigation Mediation in Dallas, TX
Another kind of mediation is practiced by non-lawyers (and some lawyers) and is commonly called pre-litigation mediation. In this model, the parties remain in the same room with the mediator, and the process is generally divided into multiple two to three-hour sessions. The parties may or may not have attorneys, but the attorneys do not usually attend the mediation sessions. A good mediator is essential to the success of this process. If you are interested in determining if it might work for you, ask us in your initial consultation. We are also available to act as a coach or consultant if you choose to use this kind of mediation.
In this representation, the mediation lawyer takes on the role of "coach" for the client who is mediating without lawyers present. Since the lawyer is still considered by most to be the primary resource for legal decision making, many clients seek lawyers who are knowledgeable and supportive of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) procedures and who are willing to represent them on a limited basis throughout the mediation process.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer if I’m Going to Mediation?
Some parties who go directly to a mediator to work out their family law problems would like to have an attorney to consult with before, during and after mediation to make sure they are making reasonable decisions. This meets the client's goal of controlling their family dispute and gives them a level of protection of their legal rights.
Some clients only want a mediation lawyer to review the final agreement. Others will want the lawyer to help identify and select the mediator; review and negotiate the terms of the mediation agreement; suggest a proposed schedule for the sessions; review the progress of the sessions; refer to outside forensic experts; have direct contact with the mediator to explain the client's position better; draft the final documents, and generate ancillary closing documents (or only certain of these responsibilities).
About Our Attorneys
Larry Hance began mediating family law disputes in 1990 after leaving the bench as a Family Court Judge and maintained a high settlement rate in his mediation practice. His initial training was in the caucus, positional bargaining model, but he sought a more practical approach for families. After taking a several year hiatus from mediating, he attended two additional advanced mediation trainings: The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Advanced Mediation Training in 1999; and the Harvard Law School Negotiation Project Advanced Mediation Training in 2000. While Larry no longer acts as mediator in family law disputes, his experience and training in mediation is extremely helpful to his clients when he assists them in the mediation process.
Jonathan James has attended many mediations with his clients, understands the process well, and has consistently helped those clients achieve their best possible income.