Mediation is a confidential, problem-solving process in which a neutral, skilled third person, the mediator, helps the parties to a dispute reach a voluntary agreement. The mediator does not decide how to resolve the dispute and will not take sides or represent either parent or the child. The mediator helps the parties (you and the other parent) develop agreements that are satisfactory to all parties. Mediation can help parents and other caregivers, including grandparents and stepparents, iron out their differences and get back to the business of raising a healthy and happy child.
Mediation has many advantages over litigation:
- Less expensive and less time-consuming.
- Disputing parties control of the outcome rather than strangers (judge or jury)
- Parties decide their own solutions to the conflict, including solutions that a court could not order, so long as it is within the law.
- A chance to solve your disagreement without a court fight so that important relationships can be maintained.
Sometimes a trusted religious advisor can guide families through a difficult time. There are other ways to settle a disagreement without having a judge decide how your family will resolve its problems.
Local dispute resolution centers offer mediation services for a small fee. For links to mediators, go to:
Texas Association of Mediators
Office of Attorney General – Child Support Access and Visitation Provider Search
In addition to mediation, other services are available to resolve family disputes. Parenting Coordinators and Parenting Facilitators are appointed by the court.
Parenting Coordination is a child-focused alternative dispute resolution process where a mental health or legal professional with mediation training and experience helps parents in high conflict court cases. The court may weigh a variety of factors before ordering parent coordination, including but not limited to: high levels of anger and distrust, verbal abuse, and difficulty communicating about and cooperating in the care of the minor children to follow their parenting plan. Parent Coordinators help parties resolve their disputes in a timely manner and educate parents about the children’s needs. The parties and the court may agree in advance that a parenting coordinator will make decisions for the parents if the parents are unable to agree. These decisions must be within the scope of the court order or appointment contract.
Parenting coordination is a confidential process to help high conflict parents resolve co-parenting disputes outside the courtroom. Parenting Coordinators cannot communicate with the court other than to report whether the process should continue—or not.
Parenting facilitation is a non-confidential process designed to resolve co-parenting conflicts. According to the Texas Family Code 153.6061 (c), the appointment of a parenting facilitator means the court still has: (1) the exclusive jurisdiction to determine issues of conservatorship, support, and possession of or access to the child; and (2) the authority to exercise management and control of the suit. Specific reports are submitted to the court and may include testimony before the court.
The Texas Family Code, §153.606-609, provides practice guidelines for parenting coordinators and facilitators. Their role is to educate and empower parents to develop a parenting plan that is best for their children, and resolve conflicts regarding implementing the parenting plan. Agreements made with the assistance of a parenting coordinator should be written, signed by both parties and their attorneys, and filed with the court. The parenting coordinator/facilitator determines the procedures and techniques parents must use to achieve effective co-parenting. Parenting coordinators and facilitators can be found through the Texas Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts or the Texas Association of Mediators.