In Texas, Mediation is a formal meeting, with all parties and attorneys, where everyone tries to reach an agreement to settle the case. In Mediation, unique and creative solutions can be explored and, if an agreement is reached, then it will be binding (non-revocable) on all parties and finalize the disputes.
Mediation is commonly used in Texas court cases, especially in Divorces and Custody cases. Texas Family Code 6.602 provides that, on a party’s Motion or the court’s own motion, the case can be referred to mediation. If a settlement agreement is signed by all parties and attorneys then it is binding on all parties. This means that the agreement cannot be revoked, changed, set aside, or modified. The only instances of Judges not rendering an Order on a valid Mediated Settlement Agreement are when there are child-safety concerns not adequately addressed in the agreement, or if there is a detail not addressed in the settlement that the Judge needs to clarify. The usual example is when some criminal activity, arrests, or apparent drug/alcohol issues present themselves AFTER the settlement agreement and those issues change the landscape of the case drastically. Vague language in an agreement is subject to interpretation and so it’s importation to be thorough and specific in your mediation settlement details.
Mediation is commonly held via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meets, or similar virtual platform. In-person mediation session can be scheduled, but it will depend on the mediator. If a party wants to sit with their attorney and log-in together, this is a popular option for clients who want to be in-person with their attorney but not necessarily with the mediator.
Mediation is a private and confidential process. Many mediators do not allow third parties (other family or friends) to participate in the mediation process unless all parties agree in advance. Any discussions had at mediation are confidential and cannot be brought up in court later. Mediators cannot be subpoenaed to testify in court nor can their records be subpoenaed/disclosed to the Judge. The purpose of this confidential process is to allow parties to communicate settlement ideas freely without fear of future repercussions or damaging their position in court. During mediation parties are not usually in the same room or same virtual screen. It is the mediator’s job to be the messenger and communicate settlement offers back and forth between the parties, to minimize interactions and reduce conflict/stress.
Mediation is typically a cost that is split between the parities. Some mediators offer flat fees for a half-day or full-day session. Those costs vary from a few hundred dollars per party to over a thousand dollars. Cost depends on the experience of the mediator, length of the session, and location of the case/mediator. Some mediators offer an hourly rate and, if negotiations are quick, that can save on costs. It is important to choose a mediator who has experience in your type of case. They will be more familiar with the law, the local courts/judges, and what’s typical for similar cases in your area.
It is important to speak to an attorney before attending mediation so you can know more about the process, what to expect, and settlement possibilities for your specific case facts.