What is a Mediated Settlement Agreement in Texas?


mediated settlement agreementMost cases settle out of court. In fact, the family law settlement rate is more than 90 percent. Frequently, informal discussions result in a settlement. Sometimes, the two sides do not even meet face to face. However, if the sides are far apart on key issues, most Tarrant County judges appoint professional, third-party mediators. These individuals know how to translate agreement on broad principles, like the best interests of the child, to agreement on specific issues, like a weekly time-sharing division.

Even if a judge appoints a mediator, a Fort Worth divorce mediation attorney is still an important part of the process. All mediators are experienced, but not all of them have the same kind of experience. It’s important to work with a mediator who is not only fair but also is familiar with the issues in your case. Otherwise, divorce mediation might be a waste of time.

Benefits of Mediation

Sometimes, a trial is preferable to an out-of-court settlement. That’s especially true in evidence-based divorces. Some spouses want or need a judicial declaration that the other spouse was at fault. However, in most cases, an MSA is a better alternative.

  • Cost: According to the Department of Justice, mediation saves civil litigants over $10 million a year. Additionally, mediation reduces the noneconomic costs of divorce. Since the case ends earlier, litigants spend less time worrying about it.
  • Civility: Usually, parents need to be at least civil towards one another. Constant fighting and disparagement is usually bad for the children. On a related note, if divorce mediation is successful, many parents gain the confidence they need to resolve future disputes in this way.
  • Control: The parties have almost complete control over an MSA’s contents. Most judges approve most settlement agreements without requiring hearings. This control usually increases voluntary compliance, which normally means fewer expensive motions to enforce. So, all these benefits are related.

Collaborative law, a non-litigation alternative that could be described as ongoing mediation, is a good option in some situations. Instead of going to court, the parties meet once a month with their Fort Worth divorce mediation attorneys to work out the issues in the case.

Mediation Nuts and Bolts

Family law mediation is usually an informal process. There is no judge and no court reporter. In fact, family law mediation normally happens in an office building instead of a courtroom.

The day or half-day session begins with brief opening statements from both lawyers. Since the mediator has already reviewed the file, the mediator is already generally familiar with the parties and issues involved.

Then, the two sides retire to separate rooms as the mediator conducts shuttle diplomacy between them. As settlement offers and counter-offers are exchanged, the parties move closer toward an agreed settlement.

During mediation, the parties have a duty to negotiate in good faith. So, instead of simply going through the motions, they must earnestly want to settle the case. Furthermore, they must be willing to make some compromises. “All or nothing” is not a good-faith negotiation posture.

Special accommodations are available in special situations. For example, if there is a history of domestic violence in the marriage, a Zoom mediation might be more efficient than a live mediation.

Reach Out to a Dedicated Attorney

A Mediated Settlement Agreement may be the best way to resolve a family law dispute. For a confidential consultation with an experienced Fort Worth divorce mediation attorney, contact Orsinger, Nelson, Downing & Anderson, LLP. We routinely handle matters in Tarrant County and nearby jurisdictions.