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Resolving a Dispute Out of Court

This article answers common questions about mediation in Texas.

Mediation is an alternative method of dispute resolution. This article describes the different methods, costs, and strategies for mediation.

What is mediation?

Mediation involves a neutral person, the mediator, who guides parties through communication to promote compromise, settlement, or understanding. A mediator may not place their own views or decisions on the issue at hand. Instead, it is up to the mediator to help you and the other party to come to an agreement. A mediator may not tell the other side what you have discussed with them and must keep your conversations confidential, unless you agree otherwise.

Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code 154.023, Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code 154.053.

What is the difference between mediation and arbitration?

Arbitration is a process where each party or their attorney presents their case to a neutral person, the arbitrator. The arbitrator then makes a decision about your case. Unlike mediation, the arbitrator uses their judgment based on the facts presented to come to a decision. A mediator does not provide a decision, but helps both parties reach an agreement on their own.

Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code 154.027.

What types of cases are mediated?

Most civil cases can be brought to mediation. This includes family law cases, landlord tenant cases, probate cases, consumer protection cases, etc. If reconciliation is a possibility, the courts encourage mediation before you file a lawsuit.

Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code 154.002.

Why would I want to use mediation?

Mediation occurs in a less formal setting than court and can save time and money if you and the other party can reach an agreement through this process. In most cases, mediation can provide a legally enforceable outcome, if agreed by the parties, similar to going to court. 

How much does mediation cost?

The court may set a reasonable fee for services of your mediator, unless both parties agree to a method of payment with the mediator. 

Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code 154.054.

Where can I find mediators?

A court can assign a mediator, but you can find a third party mediator of your own as well. You can find mediators online on some websites.  If you are in Austin, Texas, and surrounding areas, take a look at Dispute Resolution Center for a government funded mediation program that can be helpful for a mediator search. 

Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code 154.053.

How do I prepare for mediation?

Before going into mediation, you can prepare for the session. You can get advice from someone you trust, possibly a lawyer, about your goals, what you are willing to compromise on, and what you are not. You will want to bring all relevant materials you have to show the mediator that will help you communicate what you want.

My county requires mediation, but I don’t want to do it. Do I have to?

Generally, you will want to follow all court requirements  However, within 10 days of receiving notice of an order of referral for mediation, you can file a written objection to the mediation requirement. If the court finds there are reasonable grounds for your objection, the court will not require you to attend mediation. 

Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code 154.022.

What are some low-cost mediation services?

The Texas State Law Library offers a directory of dispute resolution centers in Texas, some of which may be low-cost.

Should I agree to mediation if the other side has been abusive?

Mediation can be helpful when both people have equal power. Both people must be able to say what they want without being afraid or pressured.

Threats and control are common in relationships where one person is abusive. If the abuser is used to being in charge and making all the decisions, mediation probably won’t work very well.

Mediation might be even more of a problem in a divorce or custody case if the other parent abused you and you don’t have a lawyer. You can object to mediation under those circumstances.

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