Involved in a Texas family law or other Texas civil case and wondering if you really have to go to mediation? Have a problem scheduling or attending? Learn more about the process and how to solve some common problems.
Types of cases
If you are involved in a Texas family law case or other Texas civil case, your attorney may have told you that you are going to need to attend mediation. And that it is not optional! Your reaction to hearing this may have been nervousness, dread or annoyance. You might feel resistant. Or, you may have a problem that you don’t know how to solve.
Mediation isn’t just for “big cases”. If you have a case in Small Claims Court, you may also find that you are told to attend mediation. If so, this will happen when you are in the courtroom, requesting to go in front of the judge.
Different situations, different solutions
Let’s look at some different situations, some common problems, and some solutions.
- First of all, mediation is a way to help parties reach an agreement. If you reach an agreement on your own, without the mediation process, the judge will not make you go to mediation. There would be no reason to do so.
- In family law cases, it is very often required, not optional. In divorce and custody cases especially. A judge will order mediation and may refuse to have a hearing or trial until the parties attend mediation as ordered. There is no avoiding it, so rather than spend your energy stressing about it, learn more and get ready.
- In other civil cases, mediation may also be required. Some examples of other types of cases where mediation may be necessary are business lawsuits, property disputes, or contested probate cases.
- In Small Claims Court, the mediators will often be there in the courtroom. When the case is called, the parties will be assigned a mediator by the judge. They will immediately go to a conference room to attempt to settle. The mediator will report back to the judge to tell him or her whether the case has settled.
- In all these cases, the judge has the right and the power to require mediation, even if both parties don’t want to go, or think it is unfair.
Problems and solutions
There are ways to work around problems. Some common problems along with their solutions are as follows:
- Can’t afford a private mediator (solution: a local non-profit Dispute Resolution Center with volunteer mediators);
- One party lives out of the area (solution: mediation conducted by videoconference or telephone conference);
- Can’t miss work (solution: show employer the Order of mediation signed by the Judge, get letter from attorney and/ or mediator);
- English is not the primary language for one or both parties (solution: find mediator who is bilingual or include a translator);
- One of the parties feels intimidated by, or is fearful of the other party (solution: discuss with attorney and mediator. The parties can be kept separate, and escorted in and out of the mediation building without contact with each other);
- A party is having health issues, or is high-risk for exposure to Covid-19 (solution: conduct mediation by videoconference or teleconference, or confirm that all CDC procedures are followed on-premises);
- Mediation is court-ordered and the other party says “absolutely not!” (solution: you can only control your own behavior. Take a deep breath. As long as you are willing to go, the judge cannot blame you for someone else’s refusal. Tell your attorney about this if he or she doesn’t know);
- You get very nervous and have problems speaking under pressure (solution: ask your attorney to help you learn more about what to expect, to help you prepare, and agree on a signal if you need a break).
You can learn more about the mediation process before you go. This will help you feel more confident. Your attorney can prepare you in advance.
The mediation process is actually less formal than a hearing in a courtroom. It usually involves people sitting around a conference table talking. Respect is emphasized, and parties are not allowed to scream at each other or insult each other. The mediator is not biased toward either party and will make sure that the parties act responsibly. Mediation is an opportunity to be heard on some feelings and issues that you have, because it is a safe place to express yourself. It is also an excellent opportunity to settle the real issues in the case, and avoid going to a trial.
Ways we can help you
- At Kalish Law Office, we are experienced in hearings, trials in front of a judge and jury, case settlement, and attending mediation. We can help you understand how the whole process works together, and help you feel confident and be ready for each step in your case.
- We can assist you in English and Spanish, with an attorney and staff members who read, write and speak both languages fluently. We can work with a translator if you require a translator for another language.
For those who need a family law mediator and are not our clients:
- We have a family law mediator, Siomara Ramirez Pitre, who is able to mediate in English or Spanish. So, if you are involved in a case and may need a mediator, feel free to pass our contact information to your attorney and we will be happy to speak with her/him.