I am one of the few Houston mediators that will do family law (divorce, custody, child support, visitation, etc.) mediations without attorneys.
Why? Because I've been mediating full-time and I've learned how to carefully screen people that want a mediation.
Quite frankly, most people don't understand why mediation can and cannot do in Texas.
I often suggest that the people research Texas family law or consult with an attorney so that they understand the litigation process. After doing so, most decide that the mediation process is the path they would like to persue first before hiring attorneys.
Unfortunately, I learned a lot over the years. For example, I won't even book a mediation until both parties assure me that they understand the limits of mediation (I don't give legal advice or draft final legal paperwork). And both parties must pay their 50% deposit in order to be placed on my calendar.
I've had too many pro se parties just not show up or one party says they will show up but then "disappears" on their appointment time. I only work with people that are truly committed to looking to an alternative to litigation.
I cannot force anyone to attend mediation. However, a judge can "force" you to attend mediation by a court order.
What most people don't understand is that in Harris County, Texas family courts basically over 85% of the cases will be sent to mediation before a person can have a trial. Judges have learned that mediation works and it more efficient for people. Judges see that people that settle their issues at mediation are happier and are able to co-parent much easier.
I even do mediations with protective orders in place. Yes, they are trickier than the usual case, but it can be accomplished and the protective order not violated.
I can honestly say that I save the people I work with thousands of dollars in legal fees.
In one case, I had a long term marriage (over 35 years) with millions in assets and I can truthfully state that I saved that couple easily over $100,000 in legal fees. If attorneys had gotten involved, the discovery process alone would have been thousands of dollars. In this case it took approx. 6 mediation sessions and the couple agreed to hire a financial consultant to review all their assets (no debts) so that both clearly understood the value of their estate.
I find this work very personally rewarding. A lot less stressful than litigation and people are so much happier at the end of our mediation session. I got lots of hugs (often followed up with thank you notes and/or gifts) because young executives understand the value of my services.
As a mediator, I've chosen to charge approx. 50% less than what I charge as an attorney. Why? Because my stress factor is so much less and I find it fun to do. It's creative. It's challenges me.
Yes, I could easily charge a lot more, but I have built a loyal following of attorneys that appreciate my respectful and professional approach to mediation. I do several free mediations per month for Houston Volunteer Lawyers and Harris County Dispute Resolution Center because I believe that everyone should be able to attend mediation.
I don't believe that "bullying" or forcing someone to settle. I offer options and make suggestions but the parties are the "boss" of their Mediated Settlement Agreement. I generally just offer "motherly advice" (or for younger folks - "grandmotherly advice") based on the fact that I've been a family law attorney over 25 years and I'm on marriage #3! I've been a parent and step-parent and I've learned a lot just through life experience.
So if you want to save money, handle your matter privately and have control over the process, you should consider mediation.
On my website - www.familylaw4u.com - I have lots of info on mediation and my mediation packet.
Mediate - don't litigate.