Most all courts in Texas require the parties to a case to try to resolve the issues through mediation. Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution that allows the parties and their lawyer to meet with a mediator to try to work out some agreement. You could resolve some or maybe even all of the issues in your case.
The mediator is someone who has received training on how to help people come to a resolution of their legal issues. The mediator is unbiased and either selected by the court or selected by the attorneys when they can agree on a person. The mediator is paid by both parties to help insure fairness. This can be some kind of flat fee for two hours or a strictly hourly rate. Mediators really try to resolve these matters. A successful mediator typically has a strong record of resolving cases. The mediator is not a judge of your case. The mediator cannot make anyone do anything. If you don’t want to settle your case or resolve some of the issues by agreement then you don’t have to.
How it works
Usually, mediation takes place at the mediator’s office, or another agreed upon location. It is common that mediation can take place at the office for one of the lawyers. Where mediation takes place does not really have any impact on the mediation process. Normally, everyone meets in one room together to go over the mediator’s ground rules. This usually means what I call kindergarten rules - wait your turn to talk, no name calling or yelling, etc. Sometimes each side is invited to make an opening statement. Then usually, the two sides separate into different rooms and the mediator goes back and forth. I tell my clients that mediation is like Las Vegas. What happens in mediation, stays in mediation. It is strictly confidential. You can say almost anything in mediation and it cannot be later brought up at trial. The mediator cannot be made to testify as to anything that was said in mediation. When the mediator is in the room with us we can tell the mediator anything we want and we can actually instruct the mediator to not tell the other side what was said. The mediator will honor confidentiality. Since the mediator is going between the two sides, there sill be a lot of "down time" when we are literally sitting in a room waiting for the mediator to return. It can be frustrating and even aggravating to have to sit and wait. I always advise clients to bring a book, their cell phone and a charger. Mediaton routinely lasts several hours. As long as we a remaking real progress, we will stay and continue. When we are in mediation we can control the outcome. Once it goes to a judge or a jury it is our of your hands. Sometimes reaching an agreement we aren’t completely happy with might be better than the risks of trial. It’s all a case by case basis.
How it ends
When mediation is concluded the mediator makes a report to the court. Sometimes there is no agreement on anything. Sometimes there are partial agreements or complete agreements. When there are agreements they are usually written down before leaving and signed by everyone. Once it is signed it is like a contract and the Courts will almost always strictly enforce those agreements.