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Preparing for Mediation

Elizabeth S. Pagel, PLLC Aug. 6, 2020

Before we can have a contested hearing in front of the judge, it’s very likely that we will be required to attend mediation.  Here are a few things you need to understand about this process, including how to prepare for it.

Mediation is a powerful tool.  It gives you and the opposing party control over what happens with your kids and your property—with your life! A mediated settlement agreement gives you ownership in making things work in the future.

We can get very creative in mediation and craft an agreement that meets the needs of your family.  It’s unlikely that a judge will do that.  The court system is over-worked and over-burdened, and the judge simply does not have time to get creative.  There are presumptions in the Texas Family Code that a judge has to abide by.  It’s far better for you, your kids, and the other party for you to come up with a reasonable compromise.

Mediation is not a “mini-trial.”  The mediator is a neutral third party whose only job is to help us negotiate an agreement.  The mediator cannot force you to accept an offer that you find unacceptable, and the mediator cannot appear in court and tell the judge what happened in mediation.

Your attorney will have asked you to complete certain documents prior to mediation.  The two that are most critical are your Financial Information Statement, with documentation, and your Inventory and Appraisement (again with documentation).  (The I&A is not necessary for temporary orders but you should be working on it.)  Your attorney will try to schedule a meeting with you a day or two before mediation to review these documents and make sure that they are current and accurate, and that you have provided the necessary documentation.

We will talk about what your goal is, what you want to accomplish in mediation.  Keep in mind that it is extremely unlikely that you will get everything you want—mediation is about negotiation and compromise.  So figure out what is a deal-breaker for you, your “line in the sand” that you absolutely cannot compromise on.

Make sure your attorney knows what is most important to you.  Write it down in your own notes, and remind your attorney of that issue at the beginning of mediation (and again during mediation if you feel it has not been addressed).  Is it important that you visit your kids on Wednesdays instead of Thursdays? That you pick up your kids at a neutral location instead of at the other parent’s house?  Do you want to keep your house?

We will come up with our opening proposal prior to mediation.  This saves time; we don’t waste the first hour or more of the time figuring out what we want.

The best way to succeed in mediation is to figure out what the other party wants, and how you can agree to as much of that as possible without surrendering the things that are most important to you.

The majority of family law cases—approximately 80%!!—settle without a trial.  Preparing for mediation gives us the best chance of settling your case.

At Pagel Family Law, we understand mediation and we are committed to making it work.  Give us a call to schedule an appointment.