When Should You Hire a Professional Divorce Mediator Instead of a Divorce Lawyer in Texas?

When should someone hire a professional divorce mediator instead of a divorce lawyer in Texas?  A spouse or parent who doesn’t believe the other spouse or parent is cooperating in the ending of marriage or a relationship frequently hires a divorce lawyer when they did not really need to.  In my experience as a recovering trial lawyer turned professional peacemaker, unfortunately, the result usually ends up to be opposite of what they had hoped for.  

Here's how it goes.  When one party hires a lawyer, the other party feels they sure better have one in their corner too. Rather than creating the order they are looking for, instead the conflict actually escalates, and the costs skyrocket.  Not just in terms of money but also in emotional turmoil.  The attorney’s advocacy while diligently representing the interests of his or her own client inevitably turns the parties into entrenched adversaries. 

Unlike in early mediation, a chance to sit down together and reach resolution is delayed in litigation sometimes for more than a year or two while the divorce lawyers do discovery to develop a case against each other. 

The judge will nearly always order mediation before a divorce or custody trial in Texas.  At that point it is much harder to settle because the parties are so stirred up.  Some chomp at the bit to go after each other in court.  However, if they go to trial, they find they will spend even more money, have to wait for the judge’s verdict – sometimes months and months – and then if the verdict is appealed, they will each spend additional money and wait even longer for resolution- sometimes years. 

I’ve seen kids age out before the child support fight is over.  My clients who litigated ended up angrier and poorer even if they “won”.  I’ve also seen couples settle because they had to.  When 529s, college funds, savings accounts, and 401ks are gone and there is nothing left to divide but debts and lawyers’ fees, they have no choice but to end it.  Only the lawyers win.

My experience has also been that most of my couples can get on the same page if they will just give early mediation a chance to work.  They can talk about temporary orders, get child support started voluntarily, structure payment of living and other expenses, and also try out parenting plans for couples who want to separate to release the pressure valve. 

So, is it really necessary to get a divorce attorney involved?  Every situation is different so certainly do check with a divorce lawyer if you feel you need to.  There are a myriad of reasons and circumstances when it does make sense or it is necessary to get a divorce lawyer.  These examples include but are not limited to when there is evidence a spouse, partner, or parent:

  1. Is taking community money and spending it on something or someone that does not benefit the family, destroying or depleting assets, or selling or transferring them into another person’s name to prevent them from being identified and divided on divorce;
  2. Substantially impairs a child’s physical health or emotional development;
  3. Refuses to return children;
  4. Suffers from addiction, or there is mental, emotional, or physical abuse or neglect that endangers someone’s safety; or
  5. Disappears, ceases any sort of communication, quits work, fails to pay debts, intentionally doesn’t let anyone know where they are, etc.    

Détente Mediation and our team of independent neutral professionals in our resource network are more than willing and able to assist families and parents get what they need to have a healthy divorce and find peace.  Please remember, a party can choose whether to have a divorce lawyer present in Detente Mediation or not, depending entirely on their comfort level and need.