Strength And Solutions For Family And Criminal Law Crises

Effective Insight From Certified Mediators

At the Law Office of J. Barrett Wilson, PLLC, both of our attorneys – Justin Barrett Wilson and Elizabeth Wetzel – hold an advanced certification as a mediator in the state of Texas. Texas requires mediators to attend 70 hours of dedicated mediation training to obtain advanced certification.

Each dispute is unique. Its resolution should be, too. Our mediation certifications reflect our commitment to finding insightful, creative solutions to your legal issues. By developing a deep understanding of your needs and goals, we can think outside the box to develop intelligent, durable compromises that protect your interests.

Having completed advanced mediation training, we can lawfully mediate any dispute in the state of Texas, including but not limited to: divorce, child custody, personal injury, small claims, business disputes, contract disputes, and medical claims among others. The Law Office of J. Barrett Wilson, PLLC, offers full-day, half-day, and two-hour mediation sessions at their offices, or by Zoom anywhere in the state of Texas.

What Is Mediation?

Mediation is a private, confidential process that seeks to resolve a legal dispute outside of the courtroom by use of a third-party neutral mediator acting as a facilitator in an interest-based negotiation. Mediation takes place in a private office or on remote platforms such as Zoom. Unlike a courtroom, mediation is not open to the public, and there is no written permanent record of what the parties say during mediation. And, mediators are bound to maintain strict confidentiality. As a result, parties in a dispute can speak openly and honestly during mediation because nothing they say can be used against them in court.
These protections exist so that the mediator can understand the interests that lie under the parties’ positions and help them find creative solutions to their problems. The mediator includes these solutions in a document called a Mediated Settlement Agreement (MSA). Once both parties sign the MSA, it becomes an irrevocable, legally binding contract. In a divorce, for instance, the MSA will be incorporated in the final decree, and then the MSA becomes an enforceable court order in addition to a contract.

How Does Mediation Work?

Mediation can take place in person at the mediator’s office or remotely. If the mediation takes place at an office, the mediator should have conference rooms for each party and their lawyer if the parties are represented by counsel. If the mediation takes place via remote platform, the parties can mediate from the comfort of their home. If mediating remotely, the mediator and parties must have a stable internet connection and the ability to sign documents electronically.

Mediators often offer full-day, half-day, and two-hour sessions. Most mediators charge a flat fee per party per session, and if the mediation goes into overtime, the mediator will typically charge an hourly rate for overtime. One key feature of mediation is that each party pays an equal fee.

Since the goal of mediation is to make the parties comfortable and help them resolve their problems, most in-person mediation sessions will place the parties in separate conference rooms and will include lunch, beverages, snacks and frequent comfort breaks.

What Is The Role Of The Mediator?

A mediator serves as a neutral third party who facilitates an interest-based negotiation between the parties involved in a legal dispute. As a neutral third party, the mediator does not sit in judgment of the parties. If anything causes the mediator to become partial or biased, the mediator must alert the parties and withdraw from the mediation. As a facilitator, the mediator does not tell the parties how to resolve their dispute like a judge presiding over a trial. Instead, the mediator helps the parties work through their issues and reach a mutual agreement.

Interest-based negotiation plays a critical role in mediation. Most people think of negotiation as follows: one party makes an outrageously high demand, the other party makes a low-ball offer, and the parties go back and forth until they arrive somewhere in the middle. That is not interest-based negotiation. Instead, interest based negotiation looks to find the interests behind the positions and then create solutions to help the parties satisfy their interests.

For example, two parties argue over a lemon. Traditional negotiation would leave them each walking away with half. Interest-based negotiation asks what each party wants to do with the lemon. One party wants to fruit to make juice; the other wants the rind for zesting. While each party started out wanting the lemon, interest-based negotiation finds a creative solution: one party walks away with the rind and the other with the fruit. This is a creative solution to the problem of two people wanting one lemon. A good mediator facilitates interest-based negotiation.

Do I Need A Court Order To Mediate?

Many people don’t realize that they can enter mediation without a court order. In divorce cases for instance, Texas Family Code § 6.602 governs mediation procedures for family law matters. The code makes no requirement that a judge refer the couple to mediation as part of a filed lawsuit. The mediation will be binding if the Mediated Settlement Agreement:

  • Provides, in a prominently displayed statement that is in boldfaced type or capital letters or underlined, that the agreement is not subject to revocation;
  • Is signed by each party to the agreement; and
  • Is signed by the party’s attorney, if any, who is present at the time the agreement. is signed.

Other types of cases can go to mediation without a court order, too. Once a MSA meets the requirements listed above, it becomes a legally binding contract. If a case is pending, one of the parties will file a motion to non-suit, which effectively ends the case. And if the either party fails to comply with the terms of the MSA, the other party can sue the violating party for breach of contract.

Do I Need A Lawyer To Mediate?

The short answer is no. Parties can mediate without an attorney. While a mediator cannot give legal advice, a mediator who is also a lawyer can guide the parties by asking them whether they have considered issues the mediator knows will likely arise from his or her experience as an attorney, and the mediator can facilitate an agreement addressing the important legal issues.

In family law cases, parties will often be ordered to attend mediation before trial. Rather than spend tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees before attending mediation, divorcing spouses can benefit by mediating early before hiring attorneys.

In small claims cases, it may cost the parties more in attorneys’ fees than their claim is worth. Also, plaintiff lawyers who earn a contingency fee usually do not want to take cases where the total amount in controversy is $20,000.00 or less. But if these parties try to negotiate between themselves, emotion usually destroys the negotiation. A mediator can help these parties think clearly and resolve their disputes while controlling hard feelings.

What Legal Issues Can Be Mediated?

At the Law Office of J. Barrett Wilson, PLLC, our Texas certified mediators are prepared to assist clients through a full range of disputes, which include, but are not limited to:

Divorce Mediation

Many courts in Texas require spouses to attend mediation before they can take their divorce or child custody matter to trial. The Texas Family Code allows for a spouse to object to mediation only if the relationship between spouses or co-parents has involved domestic violence. If your marriage has not involved domestic violence, your case will likely make its way to mediation. You can mediate at any point before your family law matter goes to trial. The end product is a Mediated Settlement Agreement (“MSA”) that becomes legally binding once it is signed.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is an umbrella term that describes alternative options for resolving disputes outside of the courtroom. ADR includes techniques like mediation, arbitration, mediated settlement conferences, mini-trials, and summary jury trials. Mediation involves a neutral third party who facilitates a negotiated agreement between parties. Arbitration resembles a trial where the judge or panel of judges act as the finder of fact. Mini-trials and summary jury trials are simulated jury trials with non-binding verdicts.

Small Claims Mediation

Small claims in Texas courts include matters where the amount in controversy is $20,000.00 or less. These legal disputes fall under the jurisdiction of Justice of the Peace Courts. In order to expedite the resolution of small claims disputes, many Justice Courts encourage parties to a small claims case to attend mediation. A mediator can provide the parties with a tremendous amount of help in resolving these disputes because small claims parties often do not hire attorneys.

Personal Injury Mediation

Plaintiff personal injury law includes more than physical injury or medical malpractice claims. These cases fall under the umbrella of tort law. Torts involve civil disputes where one party breaches a duty in a non-criminal manner and other party suffers a physical harm or financial or emotional loss. A plaintiff files a lawsuit seeking redress from the party that breached some sort of legal duty. It can take years to try these cases, and a mediator can help the plaintiff receive some sort of compensation on the time table the plaintiff needs.

Put Creative Problem-Solving On Your Side

To learn more about the mediation services at the Law Office of J. Barrett Wilson, PLLC, check out our Justice In Sight resource center, or schedule your consultation today. You can call 469-565-1221, or complete our online form. We meet with clients at our McKinney and Plano offices, and remotely with clients across Texas.