Mediation: A Better Option Than Litigation

What Are the Advantages to Mediation?

You get to decide: The responsibility and authority for coming to an agreement remain with the people who have the conflict. The dispute is viewed as a problem to be solved. The mediator doesn’t make the decisions, and you don’t need to “take your chances” in the courtroom. Many individuals prefer making their own choices when there are complex trade offs, rather than giving that power to a judge. You need to understand your legal rights so that you can make decisions that are in your own best interests.

The focus is on needs and interests: Mediation examines the underlying causes of the problem and looks at what solutions best suit your unique needs and satisfy your interests.

For a continuing relationship: Neighbors, divorcing parents, supervisors and their employees, business partners, and family members have to continue to deal with each other cooperatively. Going to court can divide people and increase hostility. Mediation looks to the future. It helps end the problem, not the relationship.

Mediation deals with feelings: Each person is encouraged to tell his own story in his own way. Acknowledging emotions promotes movement towards settlement. Discussing both legal and personal issues can help you develop a new understanding of yourself and the other person.

Higher satisfaction: Participants in mediation report higher satisfaction rates than people who go to court. Because of their active involvement, they have a higher commitment to upholding the settlement than people who have a judge decide for them. Mediations end in agreement 70 to 80% of the time and have high rates of compliance.

Informality: Mediation can be a less intimidating process than going to court. Since there are no strict rules of procedure, this flexibility allows the people involved to find the best path to agreement. Mediation can deal with multiple parties and a variety of issues at one time. In family mediation, for example, two children, Mom, Dad and Grandma might be involved. They may need to talk about chores, school performance, curfew, allowances, discipline, and the use of the kitchen.

Faster than going to court: Years may pass before a case comes to trial, while a mediated agreement may be obtained in a couple of hours or in sessions over a few weeks.

Lower cost: The court process is expensive, and costs can exceed benefits. It may be more important to apply that money to solving the problem, to repairing damages, or to paying someone back. Mediation services are available at low cost for some types of cases. If you can’t agree, other legal options are still possible. Even a partial settlement can lessen later litigation fees.

Privacy: Unlike most court cases, which are matters of public record, most mediations are confidential.

WITH OR WITHOUT LAWYERS After 30 years of handling large, contested divorces in Tarrant County, I turned my focus to helping people by alternative methods of resolving their divorce. I offer mediation to clients with or without lawyers. If you have a lawyer, then odds are I have worked with the lawyers representing you and your spouse. If you have lawyers, then the lawyers can contact my office and we coordinate a time for all of us to mediate in my office.

WITHOUT LAWYERS Many people want to avoid having two lawyers, each representing one spouse. I often mediate without lawyers. The benefit of “without lawyers” is the efficiency and speed of resolution. You and your spouse no longer need to try to schedule a meeting around four calendars. It’s just me and the two of you. I often meet on Saturdays and on occasion after hours. There is no opposing lawyers, just a team of the three of us trying to peacefully resolve the issues. I believe that if you and your spouse were able to create an estate, then surely with a little help from a Board Certified Family Law Specialist then we can calmly and peacefully divide your estate. I have successfully mediated over 5,000 divorces. This method is designed for divorcing couples who want to stay in control over the process. I have a success rate of over 94%.

But for many people who use my services without lawyers, the success they enjoy the most is a salvaged relationship with the spouse they just divorced. After spending years together with your spouse, there’s no need to make the wound deeper by contested litigation. Just get a mediated divorce. Minimize the conflict. Minimize the pain. Minimize the cost.

I schedule a time for you and your spouse to come in for an initial joint session. In the initial session, we discuss the issues, the assets, the debts, and any child related issues. At the first meeting, please bring copies of the past few years income tax

returns, financial statements (that are usually filed with a bank for a loan), retirement accounts, mortgage payoff balances, recent 401K statements, a running list of all credit card debt, etc. A complete financial package. If there is child support, then I need to see respective payroll stubs, and you may need to put together a monthly budget.

I remain neutral and I do not “take sides.” I do not represent one party against the other party. I mediate and bring 30 years of family law expertise to the table to cut through the red tape, add insight and wisdom, and hopefully expedite the process.

If the parties trust each other to be truthful about the size and value of the estate, then we can quickly begin putting together a settlement. If one spouse is unsure about the size and value of the estate, then the parties can prepare a Sworn inventory and Appraisal. I can help each of you with that legal document. This is a legal document in which you swear that you have disclosed all assets. This document is sworn to in the presence of a Notary public. A Sworn inventory and Appraisal compels people to properly disclose all assets. If an asset is omitted from the Sworn inventory by a party, then that asset can be awarded to the other side by a Judge. Inventories can be as complex or as simple as the estate being divided. Inventories focus on the larger assets and debts. Houses, real estate, ranches, retirement, 401K, IRA, cars, investments, benefits of employment, financial accounts, collectibles, etc. Usually there is little or no focus on household goods or personal property unless something has a large value.

Debts are also an important part of the Divorce Inventory. Credit cards, mortgage balances, car payoffs, outstanding IRS debts, loans against the retirement plans, etc.

CHARACTERIZATION OF ASSETS This is a lawyer’s way of asking if the asset is a “separate property asset” or a “community property asset.” In divorce, we usually only divide the community property. If someone has separate property, then they usually keep that separate property. Of course, in a mediated or agreed upon divorce, parties can trade or exchange any property they choose. Separate property in Texas divorce law is usually any property that was owned by one party prior to the marriage, or, property that was inherited (from a deceased friend or relative) or property that was acquired by gift. If you received a gift, even if it was from your spouse, that gifted item is your separate property. (assuming we all agree it was a gift.)

VALUATION OF ASSETS Often the parties agree that the estate owns an asset, but disagree to the value of the asset, If the asset is a large, valuable asset that would justify an appraisal by an expert, then I often suggest that the asset be appraised by a neutral, professional appraiser. Houses and raw land often need appraisals. Another

asset that needs appraisals is a small business. Small business appraisals require a complete disclosure of the business assets, business debts, income, expenses and profit and loss statements. A neutral, independent appraisal is usually far better than each party hiring a “hired gun” and trying to get a distorted valuation. That method only causes pain and costs more money.

MEDIATION OF DIVORCE ISSUES Once both parties are satisfied with the valuation and characterization, we begin the actual negotiations. Calm, unemotional mediation and negotiation. This process is much more family friendly than traditional divorce litigation. Not only is this method more affordable financially, but it’s easier! Easier on your emotions, easier on your relationship! Let’s face it, divorcing someone you once loved is not easy! Let’s do all we can to minimize the cost, the time and the truma. Do all you can to avoid a contested divorce and avoid a courtroom conflict.

I suggest that both parties watch my video “Winning at Mediation” which is available on my home page. Note: The State Bar of Texas has approved this video for lawyers needing to fulfill their annual State Bar Minimum Continuing Legal Education Requirements. Lawyers watch this video and learn from it. But it’s good information for everyone, not just lawyers! And it also gives you a chance to see me and hear me before we meet.

MEDIATED SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT Once we reach an agreement on all issues, I draft a Mediated Settlement Agreement. This is a very important legal document. The Mediated Settlement Agreement is the most binding legal document in Texas. The Supreme Court of Texas has stated that it is virtually impossible to be released from a Mediated Settlement Agreement. Therefore, before you sign a mediated Settlement Agreement, you should review the entire document, ask any questions that you may have, and speak up if you have any concerns or reservations.

DECREE OF DIVORCE once we reach a complete agreement, and after we have all executed a Mediated Settlement Agreement, then I will draft a Decree of Divorce. The Decree will be reviewed by both parties and signed by both parties. The Decree of Divorce is a public document. Upon request, I am able to keep certain terms of the agreement confidential. In larger estates, the divorcing parties do not want the public to have access to the terms of the agreement, Please let me know if you wish to keep the terms confidential. If so, I can petition the Court and ask that the divorce file be sealed. Alternatively, I can draft a Decree that grants the divorce and recites any agreements relating to children. Then draft a different legal document, an Agreement Incident to

Divorce, that contains all the property agreements. The public would never see the Agreement incident to Divorce. The public would never see the terms, the size of the estate, etc. This can be very important for anyone seeking privacy, confidentiality, advanced estate planning after the divorce, etc. I encourage everyone to remain as confidential and private as possible with any and all information about their assets and their estate. Without this confidentiality, anyone can simply drive to the Tarrant County Family Courts Building in downtown Fort Worth and ask to to see your Decree. They can actually pay a small fee to the Tarrant County District Clerk and leave with a certified copy of your decree of divorce. Using my methods of an Agreement Incident to Divorce, the terms remain confidential. The assets remain confidential. If you were smart enough to create a large estate, let’s work together to keep the estate safe and secure.

TAXES In addition to being Board Certified in Family Law, I have an advanced L.L.M. Degree in Federal Taxation. Taxes can sometimes be the most difficult aspect of a divorce. If you are have tax liens or other problems, we can address those in the divorce. I can give each party my opinion as to the tax consequences of the division of the estate. I am here to help.

LOCATION AND CONTACT INFO I am located in Fort Worth, 1205 North Main Street. The building is owned by Avery McDaniel and his name is prominently displayed outside. My phone number is 817-877-5995. Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Of course, just emailing me does not create an attorney client relationship….

WHO I HELP I help anyone in Texas. Of course most of my work is in Tarrant County. Fort Worth and Arlington are the largest two cities in Tarrant county, but I work with people from Southlake, Westover Hills, Colleyville, Keller, Hurst, Trophy Club, Westlake, Westworth Village, Bedford, Benbrook, Blue Mound, Burleson, Crowley, White Settlement, Dalworthington Gardens, Watauga, Edgecliff Village, Sansom Park, Flower Mound, River Oaks, Grapevine, Mansfield, Haltom City, Haslet, etc.