Here’s something we hear frequently at our Fort Worth family law firm: “My wife and I want an uncontested divorce. We agree on everything. She keeps the house, we’ll share custody 50/50, and we’ll keep our own retirement accounts. Can you help us finalize the paperwork?” If you both actually agree 100 percent, our divorce mediation lawyers would be happy to help.
However—and this is a big however—most couples in these scenarios think they agree on everything but that’s usually not the case. In reality, when you’re negotiating a divorce or child custody settlement people need to make a lot more decisions than they realize.
That’s where many supposed uncontested or agreeable divorces implode. It’s also why most spouses benefit from hiring separate attorneys to represent their individual interests through cooperative litigation (or full-scale contentious litigation should an agreeable divorce become “disagreeable”).
In other words, an uncontested or easy divorce in Texas may not be in the cards.
It’s also important to note that we rarely recommend mediation services for divorces involving child custody. You may think you agree on custody and visitation but most parents are unfamiliar with all of the parental rights and responsibilities covered by the Texas Family Code and the implications of each.
How do I know if mediation would make sense for my divorce?
Couples that benefit from divorce mediation typically include those with only a minor impasse or two to work out, but for the most part, those that don’t need divorce lawyers to help decide how to divide their assets. These couples simply want to:
- Talk through some minor issues.
- Get a legally binding and irrevocable agreement (Mediated Settlement Agreement) prepared on their behalf.
- Pay for the deal.
When you hire a divorce mediation attorney or mediator, he or she does not represent either party and is not allowed to provide legal advice to either side. The attorney or mediator truly acts as a neutral party and is forbidden from saying anything (providing legal advice) that would prove detrimental to either spouse.
For example, say you and your husband agreed to keep your own retirement accounts, and the attorney sees that your spouse has considerably more assets in his accounts than you do. She can’t advise you to consider asking for a portion of those assets or something else (like more equity in your home) to make the settlement more equitable.
IMPORTANT: If you as a couple retain the Sisemore Law Firm to handle your uncontested divorce mediation, both parties must sign a conflict of interest waiver affirming that the firm doesn’t represent either party’s interests.
Since my spouse and I agree on settlement terms, do we need a still lawyer?
Some couples hoping to quickly resolve an uncontested divorce in Texas will search online for Texas uncontested divorce forms, fill out and sign the forms, and file the decree of divorce themselves. As we detailed in an earlier post, DIY divorces can prove disastrous.
Unless you and your spouse share literally NO assets or debt and don’t have children, it’s typically best to hire an attorney to assist with your divorce. People who go the DIY route aren’t usually familiar with all of the ancillary documents involved with divorce (say to execute a wage withholding order or close assets and transfer them over) OR that they can’t go back and undo what they agreed to later.
An experienced divorce mediation attorney in Fort Worth knows which documents you need to file with your Mediated Settlement Agreement to help ensure your wishes for your agreed divorce can be carried out. A family law attorney also knows that once your agreeable divorce is granted, the divorce and what both parties agreed to is FINAL.
It’s also important to keep in mind that some mediators in Texas are not licensed to practice family law. That means they are usually less familiar with the Texas Family Code than a family law attorney would be, as well as those important ancillary documents mentioned above.
How do my spouse and I go about hiring an attorney to mediate our divorce?
At the Sisemore Law Firm, we require that one of the two parties schedules a legal consultation with our founder Justin Sisemore first. During the consultation, Justin will review everything that you and your spouse agreed to and probe to find out if you covered all of the bases.
As Justin likes to say, “I promise you, if you think you know everything, you really don’t until you sit down for a consultation.”
At the end of your consultation, Justin will let you know if he believes your divorce truly qualifies as an agreed divorce and whether mediation makes sense. He will not lead you onto the mediation path unless it’s the right move for you.
If he believes you would be better served by hiring an attorney to represent your individual interests, he will refuse your request for divorce mediation and recommend an alternative service, like cooperative divorce litigation.
For example: Sally sits down for a consultation with Justin. Sally is a homemaker and her case involves quite a bit of property. She and her husband Joe have a company, houses, properties and other businesses. Sally really doesn’t know any details about the couples’ assets but she trusts Joe, and they’re getting a divorce. Justin would refuse Sally’s request to mediate that case because it wouldn’t be in Sally’s best interest.
A case like Sally’s would require extensive inventory analysis and discovery—the stage in the divorce where the parties request information from each other to pin down the facts of the case. Mediated uncontested divorces typically don’t involve inventory or discovery because the spouses agreed how to split up any assets or debts beforehand.
Looking for an uncontested divorce mediator in Tarrant County?
Our family law firm in Fort Worth would be delighted to review your case and put our more than 50 years of experience in family law to work for you. To find out if divorce mediation is the right path for you, contact us.