Divorcing a longtime partner is always difficult, but not every divorce ends with lots of paperwork or litigation. Instead, some couples may choose to pursue an alternative option: divorce mediation.
Divorce mediation and court-based divorce proceedings (also called divorce litigation) are both potential outcomes for any given divorce case. Both are also fully legal in the state of Texas. This guide will explain more about divorce mediation versus court divorces and help you determine which you should try to pursue with your former partner and your family law attorney.
What is Divorce Mediation?
Many divorce proceedings immediately move to litigation, but that’s not necessarily the only choice. Divorce mediation is a type of ADR or alternative dispute resolution.
The goal of mediation is to help a divorcing couple settle their issues without as much time or money spent on the matter. As a result, divorce mediation typically occurs in a nonconfrontational or informal setting, including online chat rooms, a mediator’s office, or even a neutral ground like the home of a shared family member.
Most importantly, mediators do not decide the divorce outcome. Instead, they coach each member of the couple to compromise and reach a marital settlement agreement. In theory, this will allow the couple to progress to an uncontested divorce.
Depending on the circumstances of the case, divorce mediation may take one session, last up to a few weeks, or be even longer.
Divorce Mediation Process Explained
The divorce mediation process always begins with talking to a divorce mediator. Unlike a divorce lawyer, divorce mediators can come from backgrounds like accounting, psychology, social work, and more (although many are indeed family lawyers).
Once a mediator has been settled on, both parties in the divorcing couple will meet with the mediator and hash out the terms of a marital settlement agreement, including property and custody issues.
During this collaborative divorce process, the mediator uses their training to coach the ongoing conversations and tries to bring everything to an amicable state. Some may offer spousal support referral services if needed.
Upon successful mediation, the terms of the written settlement agreement are brought to a court and a final divorce decree is written up. The divorce is still just as final and official as it is with the litigated process, but it is usually much cheaper.
When divorce mediation is pursued, parties involved typically only have to pay filing fees to the court for the relevant paperwork. They may also have to pay minor fees to the divorce mediator or their agency organization. In addition, mediation is usually cheaper because it is faster – both parties involved in mediation are usually more willing to compromise or work together to find an amicable agreement than parties that default directly to litigation.
Like with a regular or litigated divorce, the terms of the divorce decree are binding and final. It may take up to 60 days for the final terms of the divorce decree to reach both parties and for the divorce to be finalized.
If mediation is unsuccessful, a mediator may recommend a lawyer referral service to both parties.
What is Divorce Litigation?
Divorce litigation is the more common type of divorce process. Also called a contested divorce, litigated divorce occurs when one or both spouses cannot agree on how to resolve many major issues, including property division, child support, alimony, and more.
In this circumstance, one party files a divorce complaint with a family law court. One or both sides then hire a divorce lawyer to represent their side of the argument. When a divorce complaint is filed, the court is officially asked to decide the outcome of the divorce and use a set of legal procedures to end the marriage officially.
Because the court gets involved, the process for divorce litigation is more complex and time-consuming, in addition to costlier on average. Couples who pursue divorce mediation or litigation must pay filing fees. But litigated divorce also includes ancillary fees like the cost of hiring a legal expert. The longer a divorce drags on, the more fees you or your former partner may face.
Divorce Litigation Process Explained
A divorce litigation process typically follows the same core steps regardless of the details of the case:
- A petitioner or filing party files for divorce officially and serves the receiving party with the notice for divorce
- Both parties hire lawyers to offer legal advice and represent their sides of the issue, then appear in court for at least one mandated session to hash out the details
- In court, final decisions will be made regarding alimony, property division, child custody and child support, and other important matters
- Once the court decides something, it is final and joins the final divorce decree. The final divorce decree breaks down the rules and restrictions for both parties and both parties must adhere to the rules in the decree, although they may appeal the decisions later down the road
If you believe divorce litigation is the only path forward, it’s vital that you contact a divorce attorney ASAP. Family law attorneys in Texas may be able to help with a number of aspects during a complex and litigated divorce, including:
- Helping you file paperwork on time and accurately so the divorce proceedings are not delayed
- Helping you present your side of the argument to the court in a persuasive and accurate manner
- Ensuring that you receive the optimal outcome for your divorce case
- Helping you achieve your goals regarding child support, alimony payments, and more
Contact Texas Family Law Attorneys Today
It can be difficult to know who to trust in the middle of a tough and emotionally fraught divorce case. That’s why Maynard Law Firm is ready and willing to hear your case and offer a free consultation and legal advice for your upcoming divorce case starting today.
We’re a small, family-owned law firm serving clients in the Tarrant County area and beyond. Whether you’re the petitioner or the recipient of divorce papers, we can assist and empathize with your situation. You’re not alone when Maynard Law Firm is on your side. Contact us today for more information.