Mediation in family law; be careful what you sign!

January 18, 2021

Originally posted on the Law Office of Chad Zubi 

Many people don’t know that the vast majority of family law cases end up settling out of court. Most of the time out of court settlements are for good reason and can greatly simplify a family law case for all involved and eliminate some of the strain that is placed on the Texas family courts.  Not only is it very expensive to take a case all the way to trial, but you know your situation better than a judge does and you are in a better position to decide what is going to work best for you and your family.  A judge on the other hand is limited in the amount they know about your unique situation and is forced to make the best decision they can with the limited facts they can obtain from the parties during a divorce and/or child custody trial.  That being said, mediation is not always the solution, sometimes one party or their attorney is completely unreasonable and you need court intervention to give them a reality check.  This is certainly the more expensive route, but sometimes it can be worth it, especially given the important things that are at stake in many family law cases and their long lasting impact on people’s lives.  Judges work hard to apply Texas family law and a good outcome is possible.

If you decide you would like to attend mediation, or if the court makes you which it commonly does, then this office can work to achieve a desirable outcome.  Negotiation skill and knowledge of Texas family law is key.  That being said, before you attend mediation it is important for you to  understand something completely.  A MEDIATED SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT IS BINDING.  Texas laws give mediated settlement agreements a lot of weight and if you make an agreement then both parties are entitled to a court order that is based on the agreement.  What I really want you to know, and if you take nothing else from this post, is that you should be sure about what you are agreeing to in mediation. You should be fully aware that you cannot take back the agreement no matter how much you think you should be able to. If you later realize that something in a mediated settlement agreement is unfair or that it isn’t going to work as well as you thought it would then you are going to be out of luck.  Even if you hire the best lawyer that money can buy to explain the situation, a judge is almost certainly going to tell you that there isn’t anything that they can do for you because they lack the authority to alter the agreement you made in mediation.  So again, be careful when making a family law agreement in mediation.  It is wise to hire an experienced family lawyer to help you craft a good settlement strategy and agreement.  Family lawyers have seen several cases in their careers and will be able to give you valuable insight as to whether what you want to do or what the other party proposes is a proper agreement.

Another thing about mediation is that although an agreement is binding and you cannot change your mind, remember that it is binding on both parties, not just you.  Once you reach an agreement, and the judge of your particular court signs an order based on your agreement, then you can make the other party comply with the agreement.  If the other party isn’t complying with a court order than you would file what is known in Texas family law as an enforcement.  An enforcement accuses the other party of non compliance and asks a court to make them do what they are supposed to and to possibly punish the offender with fines, jail time, or both.  Make no mistake about it, it is very serious to have an enforcement filed against you and if you bring one against someone else then you should be sure that you are doing it for the right reasons.  If you are on the receiving end of a family law enforcement case then I encourage you to enlist the services of a qualified family attorney to help you defend yourself.  It is not uncommon for people to have a defense to the enforcement or for the attorney who is trying to enforce a court order to make vital mistakes that should be pointed out in a court.  It is also useful to have someone on your team who knows what to do in court, not only is it harmful to your case for you to make missteps in court, but it can be an extremely unpleasant experience.

If you want to bring an enforcement against an offending party then you should know that their are very specific requirements under the Texas Family Code that must be met in order to be successful.  It would be wise to hire an attorney to do this for you as to not make a serious mistake that could jeopardize what you are trying to do.  Family law is so serious and can have such a long standing impact of people and there families that this isn’t the time to pinch pennies.  Hire a lawyer that will work hard for you and who will keep you informed and who will offer their services to you at a competitive price.  The first step is to claim your free consultation and you can do that by giving us a call.

Thanks to our friends and contributors at the Law Office of Chad Zubi for their content on this blog.