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The mechanics of mediation in a Texas divorce

Many Texas residents who have experienced the emotions and stress that often occur during a contested divorce wish they had been able to find a better method for ending their marriage. Texas lawyers who practice in the areas of divorce and family law have been aware of this difficulty for many years, and they have taken several steps to fix the problem. Perhaps the most widespread and effective method for ending a marriage is the process called "mediation."

Divorce mediation is a process in which a trained third party, usually an attorney, meets with the divorcing couple and helps them identify their disputes and find a resolution to them. All mediators in Texas have received special training in the mediation process. They are taught to treat both parties with respect and to avoid forming judgments about whether either party is "at fault" for the divorce.

The mediation process begins with a meeting including both parties, their attorneys and the mediator. Each party identifies the issues that are causing the most disagreement and presents a proposal for resolving the issues. The mediator usually encourages both parties to be forthcoming without being angry or punitive toward the other person. Sometimes, the mere act of verbalizing a dispute can help one or both parties think of solutions that do not inflict significant emotional or financial harm on the other party. Some divorcing couples are able to resolve their differences in one or two mediation sessions. Other couples may require three or more face-to-face meetings to find compromises that are agreement to both of them. A mediator may meet separately with each party to explore possible compromises in private before presenting the proposal to the other side. When the parties have reached an agreement on all essential issues such as child custody, visitation, child support and division of assets, the mediator will draft a written contract that embodies each issue on which the parties have settled their differences. The agreement is signed by both parties and presented to the judge for approval.

A mediator has no legal power to rule on any issue in a divorce. If the parties have not agreed on one or more issues, the mediator cannot force either of them to sign an agreement that is contrary to their wishes. A mediation agreement becomes final only after both parties and the mediator have signed it.

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