For parents, determining how to split time with one’s children is one of the most painful parts of divorce litigation. It is no surprise that in most cases, the parents disagree as to which parent should have custody of the children and how much visitation the other parent should have. If the parents cannot agree on how child custody and visitation should be resolved, a family court judge will have to decide the issue. Unfortunately, many parents are frustrated and disappointed with how the family court decides their cases.
In Houston, many parents have found that mediating child custody provides much better results than attending court. One major benefit is that it can be scheduled much more quickly than a family court trial. In Houston, the family court dockets are backlogged, and it may take several months or even a year to have a trial scheduled. In contrast, mediation may be scheduled as soon as the parties, and the mediator are available.
Mediation is also much less expensive than a trial. Family court attorneys charge by the hour for every bit of work they do on your case. A thirty-minute court hearing may cost you $200 or more —not including the time for the attorney’s preparation and travel to the hearing. You should be aware that many attorneys charge a minimum fee (usually 2-4 hours of their hourly rate) for each court appearance – even if it is only a 10 minute hearing. But most mediators charge a flat-rate for a half-day (4 hours) or a full day (8 hours) ranging for $300 per side for 4 hours to $1,500 per side for 4 hours. Often, finalizing a divorce may be resolved with just a few hours of mediation. Therefore, mediation costs just a fraction of the expense of paying an attorney to prepare for trial.
Perhaps most importantly, mediation keeps the outcome of the case in the control of the parties. A settlement is not reached in mediation unless and until both parties agree to its terms, whereas a family court judge may rule in a way that the parties hate.