I prefer that people file a lawsuit (aka divorce or paternity) THEN make an appointment to mediate.
Why? Because you will be assigned to a court and you will have a court number.
Then, if a settlement is reached, any written agreement is final and binding on the parties.
If both parties sign the AGREEMENT TO MEDIATE and the proper wording is included in the MEDIATED SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT and signed by both parties and the mediator, the agreements are binding on both parties and the agreements entered into cannot be revoked later.
Should I hire an attorney?
A mediator is a neutral trained third party that cannot represent either party at the mediation. Therefore, you might want to hire an attorney to advise you of all the possible outcomes at the courthouse. Then you can make an informed decision about what binding agreements that you want to enter into.
Can a mediator do the paperwork?
No, in Texas if an attorney mediates then the attorney cannot prepare the paperwork for the judge to sign.
How does the judge know we mediated?
Either you or the mediator needs to file the paperwork at the courthouse so that the judge knows that a mediation has occurred. In Harris County, efiling is now used exclusively. There is a small fee to file legal documents with the Harris County District Clerk's office.
How do I file the Mediated Settlement Agreement or the Impasse document?
You can file it in person at the courthouse or on-line. In Harris County, the Harris County District Clerk's office is located in the Civil Justice Center at 201 Caroline Street, Houston, Texas - downtown.
Or, there is a private company located at the Harris County Law Library on the first floor that will do the scanning and processing for you for a small additional fee (approx. $10). Attorneys have access to the Texas e-filing service providers that file legal documents at courthouses for a fee (usually under $5 for no-fee documents).
Where can I find an attorney to draft legal paperwork?
The best free websites are www.avvo.com and www.lawguru.com or the State Bar of Texas website lists all attorneys in the State of Texas - look under "find a lawyer" button.
There are many websites where attorneys pay to be listed.
I could list hundreds of these sites. Just because they are listed does not mean that the person is a family law practitioner or has any "special" expertise. Most of these sites charge to be listed.
You need to call around because every attorney might quote a different price to prepare the final paperwork. If there are minor children involved, there are a lot of papers that need to be filed before you go to Harris County to prove up your divorce.
What is prove up a divorce mean?
In Texas, one of the parties (normally the person that files the divorce but not required) must appear in front of a judge and under oath read a statement and ask the judge to grant the divorce. Without this final step, your divorce will not be granted. If anyone tells you that you don't need to appear in front of judge to finalize a divorce -- they do not practice law in the State of Texas.
I'm in the military and stated overseas and I cannot appear in court. What do I do?
There are steps in place in the State of Texas to accommodate our military personnel. I encourage you to hire an attorney to help you finalize your divorce. You must have a document notarized and the attorney must appear in front of the judge and the prove up can be handled that way. It is complicated so I encourage you to hire a family law attorney to help you.
Call me at 713-847-6000 and I will try to help you.