Dallas high-net-worth divorce attorney, Mark Scroggins, discusses the alternatives to going to trial in a family law situation in Texas.
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You know, there are a number of different things. One of the alternative dispute resolution covers a number of different things that you could do. The most common in Texas, most almost all cases are going to be required to go to mediation before a trial court is going to actually allow the case to go to trial. Now that is not an absolute rule, but I would say that is the case in 95 percent of the cases, and that’s what most people are familiar with. And mediation, you know, a lot of people come in thinking they know what mediation is, and most of the time they don’t.
So mediation is a situation where it would be me and my client in one room. The opposing counsel and his client in another room, and then you have a mediator. And I typically like to use former judges or other Board Certified family attorneys, who then are going back and forth between the parties to attempt to facilitate the settlement. And so how do they do that? Well, you know, they’re going to come in and talk to us about what are the weak points in our case? What do we really want? And what are the strengths of our case? And they’re going to go and do the same thing with the other side, so they’re going to play some devil’s advocate there and figure out what those strengths and weaknesses are.
Hence the reason I like using former judges, because they have an additional aspect of, or a different perspective, I should say, on these cases. And they can say, you know, when I was on the bench this is typically how I would treat this situation, and that is something that I think brings a whole different level of value to the process. Now there are other things you can do. There is binding arbitration, which can be in front of a single arbitrator or a set of three arbitrators, and that’s where basically you say okay, you know what? We don’t know exactly when we’re going to get reached to go to trial. We’re going to go into this arbitration system and we’re going to arbitrate the case.
So basically, you can try it, just like you would at trial, but you are controlling. That’s when you have the most control over the situation. You can decide what rules of evidence are going to apply. What the rules of civil procedure are going to apply. Is it appealable or not? You know, how formal or informal is it going to be? How long is it going to last? Now what are the costs and benefits of doing that? Well the benefit is you control when it’s going to happen. The cost can be your hiring someone to act as a judge. Okay. Or to be an arbitrator in that situation.
So you’re paying for that instead of say having someone in the 158th District Court of Denton County do it, you know, where taxpayers are paying for that. But you control when it’s going to happen and you don’t worry about, you know, I’m going to get bumped from this particular trial setting. You’ve also got opportunities with private judge and you can hire somebody to do that. So there are a whole lot of different things that you can do. What is most common is mediation.