Mediation and Settlement Agreements

Probably more than 90% of all dissolution cases are settled prior to trial in Texas. The traditional means of memorializing a settlement is a writing called a “Mediation, Agreement” or a “Settlement Agreement”. These agreements, drafted by the parties’ counsel, and then executed and acknowledged by the parties, provides for all of the financial arrangements . (spousal support, child support, property division, counsel fees, etc.) to which the parties have agreed, as well as for the child custody and visitation of children, waiver of rights in future property (including estate rights), and other matters.

If the parties have settled their case by agreement, the case is claimed for the “Uncontested” (collaborative) list, and a hearing is scheduled. At the hearing, the court inquires into such matters as jurisdiction, whether the grounds for dissolution of marriage have been proven (which they always are!), and whether the agreement is fair and equitable to both parties in light of their resources and needs. Since public policy favors private resolution of disputes, the parties’ agreements are almost always approved.

Sec. 6.601.  ARBITRATION PROCEDURES.  (a)  On written agreement of the parties, the court may refer a suit for dissolution of a marriage to arbitration.  The agreement must state whether the arbitration is binding or nonbinding.

(b)  If the parties agree to binding arbitration, the court shall render an order reflecting the arbitrator’s award.

Added by Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 7, Sec. 1, eff. April 17, 1997.

Sec. 6.602.  MEDIATION PROCEDURES.  (a)  On the written agreement of the parties or on the court’s own motion, the court may refer a suit to mediation.

(b)  A mediated settlement agreement is binding on the parties if the agreement:

(1)  provides, in a prominently displayed statement that is in boldfaced type or capital letters or underlined, that the agreement is not subject to revocation;

(2)  is signed by each party to the agreement;  and

(3)  is signed by the party’s legal representative, if any, who is present at the time the agreement is signed.

(c)  If a mediated settlement agreement meets the requirements of this section, a party is entitled to judgment on the mediated settlement agreement notwithstanding Rule 11, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, or another rule of law.

(d)  A party may at any time prior to the final mediation order file a written objection to the referral of a suit for dissolution of a marriage to mediation on the basis of family violence having been committed against the objecting party by the other party.  After an objection is filed, the divorce suit may not be referred to mediation unless, on the request of the other party, a hearing is held and the court finds that a preponderance of the evidence does not support the objection.

If the Contested is referred to mediation, the court shall order appropriate temporary injunction, & restraining order measures be taken to ensure the physical and emotional safety of the party who filed the objection.  The order shall provide that the parties not be required to have face-to-face contact and that the parties be placed in separate rooms during mediation.