We recognize what is important to clients, what questions they typically have and how to best protect their interest.

Most cases are resolved either through direct negotiation between the parties and their attorneys or as a result of “alternative dispute resolution” procedures.

What are “alternative dispute resolution” procedures?

The most common methods are mediation and arbitration. Most courts require the parties to attend mediation before allowing the case to proceed to trial.

Mediation is essentially a settlement conference with a third party facilitator – mediator. The mediator is either agreed upon by the parties or appointed by the Court. The mediator’s goal is to facilitate a settlement between the parties. However, the mediator cannot require the parties to settle, nor force his or her judgment on any issues in the case. During mediation, each party discusses the strengths and weaknesses of his or her case with the mediator, outside the presence of the other party. The mediator attempts to obtain concessions from each party on various issues in the hopes of having the parties reach a settlement.  If the parties reach a settlement, it is normal to sign a mediated settlement agreement.  With few exceptions, mediated settlement agreements are binding and enforceable.

Arbitration can be non-binding or the parties can agree prior to arbitration that the proceedings will be binding. Under existing law, a trial court cannot order binding arbitration, unless the parties have previously agreed to binding arbitration. Unlike mediation, arbitration is similar to a trial before the court in that an impartial third party makes decisions about the issues involved in the case. Evidence is introduced, including testimony from witnesses, with the arbitrator acting in the capacity similar to that of a trial judge. After hearing both parties’ evidence, the arbitrator will make a ruling on the issues presented, such as child custody and division of property.

Pursuant to the Texas Constitution and the Texas Family Code, persons about to marry may enter into a written agreement, which can alter or eliminate the way property and/or income is treated under Texas law prior to, following or during marriage.

Property is defined in the Family Code as “an interest, present or future, legal or equitable, vested or contingent, in real or personal property, including income and earnings.”

First , read the documents provided to you. Second, carefully review the documents to determine if they include any form of order, such as, a standing order or a temporary restraining order. If any such order exists, make certain you comply with it. Third, determine if a hearing has been scheduled. Fourth, seek the advice of a qualified family law attorney.

The Texas Family Code prohibits a court from removing a spouse from his/her residence except as part of a family violence protective order. However, if a spouse has previously vacated the residence then, some courts may sign orders prohibiting him/her from returning.

First and most importantly, do not violate the order. Fully comply with all terms of the order. Immediately seek the advice of a qualified family law attorney because you may have grounds to challenge or vacate the order. In the meantime, carefully review the order and make certain that, no matter how upsetting it may be, fully comply with the order.

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