Part 5: The Alternative of Conference Mediation
In addition to the concepts introduced in Parts 1-4, I would encourage people to explore the divorce alternative called conference mediation. This type of mediation is different from caucus mediation, which is widely used in Texas. Caucus mediation is used to resolve disputes in already filed cases. For example, caucus mediation can be required before a temporary orders hearing and is almost always required before the divorce is finalized. Caucus mediation is normally used in Texas, and it’s done almost exclusively by lawyers.
Conference mediation, on the other hand, focuses on the parties getting divorced and their children. The two spouses will work with a mediator, sometimes co-mediators, without lawyers present to resolve their case. The mediator won’t offer legal advice, so I always recommend having a co-mediator in these situations and seeing your lawyers between sessions. But overall, almost all control and power is vested in the couple during mediation. This can produce some great results.
Part 6: Other Divorce Alternatives
My final decree as King of Family Law would be to make sure the public knows there are still other alternatives for divorce such as binding arbitration. I’ve already created a system for this and call it “divorce in a box.” In my system, an arbitrator—someone separate from the spouses’ lawyers—takes control of the divorce from the very beginning. This means that from the start, the couple negotiates everything with their lawyers.
An arbitrator serves as a backup when you can’t reach agreements through your lawyers or mediation. For example, if you need to agree on a temporary order and you can’t find common ground with your spouse, the binding arbitrator will make the decision and help keep your case amiable. Arbitration is another great way to focus on rebuilding and reorganizing, even if your future doesn’t involve your current marriage. Having an arbitrator also keeps the divorce contained, “in a box,” so nothing gets out of hand and all cards are on the table.
The arbitrator can set rules on maximum attorney fees, the extent of discovery, how long you can negotiate any one issue – in short, it is “collaborative divorce” with arbitration (please note that Texas does not allow arbitration in a collaborative divorce, although the author is familiar with one or two states that do). You CAN, however, use the Texas Arbitration Statute to accomplish the aforementioned rules.
Bringing Family Law into the 21st Century
Reorganize, start over, and change direction: If I were King of Family Law, these would be my priorities. I’ve seen far too many clients’ finances and well-being be taxed by the stressors of litigated divorce. It’s time to focus on innovative approaches to family law and explore all the options. Even if a marriage is irredeemable, there are plenty of alternative ways to dissolve it constructively.