St. Mary's Law Journal


Since close to half the country’s marriages end in divorce, marriage dissolution is quite a lucrative business for attorneys. Also, fewer people are entering marriage in the first place. Fewer marriages combined with more children born out of wedlock create multitudinous legal problems and family disputes centering around those children. In addition to initial divorce filings and suits affecting the parent-child relationship, dissolution of marriage cases often creates additional litigation down the road. As a solution to the problems caused by the expense and toil of this litigation, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) offers several options for family disputants. Two popular methods of family law ADR in Texas are mediation and collaborative law. Both methods are addressed in the Texas Family Code, but mediation is the only process a court can sua sponte refer parties. These tools allow family disputants to solve their legal matters without using judicial resources and allows parties to reach settlements which are more favorable to everyone involved. Collaborative law allows parties to approach family cases in a way which provides a more cooperative option than litigating while reducing burdens on the parties and the court system. Still, due to the current nature of the collaborative agreement, the practice can provide clients with fewer options. In those situations, mediation should be the standard and preferred method of ADR for parties who wish to work things out more efficiently. Mediation is a very flexible because it can accommodate parties at the early stages of the dispute. Courts have long recognized the usefulness of mediation and have developed rules to require parties to use mediation before allowing a hearing. The success rate of mediation, combined with its relative cost-effectiveness, makes it an appealing option for people seeking to avoid full-blown litigation.


St. Mary's University School of Law