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In 1987, the Texas Legislature passed the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act, Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code § 154.002. The Act states that it is “the policy of this state to encourage the peaceable resolution of disputes, with special consideration given to disputes involving the parent-child relationship, including the mediation of issues involving conservatorship, possession, and support of children, and the early settlement of pending litigation through voluntary settlement procedures.”

Under the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act a court can, on its own motion or the motion of a party, refer a pending dispute for resolution. Alternative dispute resolution procedures that the Court may order on its own include mediation, informal settlement conferences, moderated settlement conferences, and non-binding summary jury trials. If the parties consent disputes may also be resolved by arbitration, mini jury trial, or by the appointment of a private judge. Alternative dispute resolution matters relating to family law issues are addressed in Subchapter G of Chapter 6 in the Texas Family Code.

Lawyer for Alternative Dispute Resolution in Houston, TX

Are you considering or has a court ordered you to use alternative dispute resolution for your divorce in Southeast Texas? You will want to make sure that you retain legal counsel with experience in all forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution. The Sydow Firm can help you determine the method that will work best for you.

Michael Sydow is an experienced attorney in Houston who represents clients in communities all over Harris County and Fort Bend County. Call The Sydow Firm today to have our lawyer provide a complete evaluation of your case during a free, no obligation consultation.

Overview of Alternative Dispute Resolution in Harris County

Types of Alternative Dispute Resolution in Texas

Subchapter G of Chapter 6 in the Texas Family Code lays out three different forms of alternative dispute resolution:

  • Arbitration — In arbitration, the two parties and their attorneys both present their cases to a neutral third-party arbitrator or panel of arbitrators who typically runs an arbitration hearing like a trial and applies the same rules of evidence before issuing a decision that can be binding (meaning both parties are bound by the arbitrator’s final decision) or nonbinding (meaning an arbitrator’s decision is not final and either party reserves the right to pursue a formal trial); 
  • Mediation — In mediation, the two parties and their attorneys meet with a neutral third-party mediator who does not decide disputes but instead attempts to get the two parties to come to an agreement on a voluntary settlement, and a case will move towards litigation if the two sides cannot arrive at a satisfactory settlement; and
  • Informal Settlement Conference — In an informal settlement conference, the two parties attempt to meet to determine their own settlement without a third party and possibly without their attorneys, but like mediation, cases that do not arrive at a settlement typically move to litigation.

Additional forms of forms of alternative dispute resolution may include:

  • Moderated Settlement Conference—In a moderated settlement conference the parties present their case to a panel of impartial third parties who issue a non-binding advisory opinion. The advisory opinion may help the parties to see their case as a judge or jury might view it. 
  • Summary Jury Trial—In a summary jury trial the parties present their case to a panel of six randomly chosen “jurors” who issue a non-binding advisory opinion. This may assist the parties to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses in the case, and the amount of damages that might be awarded. 
  • Mini-Trial—In a mini-trial the parties present an abbreviated version of the case to a panel or to a single impartial third party whose opinion may either be binding or non-binding.

Advantages of Alternative Dispute Resolution in Harris County

Alternative dispute resolution can allow both sides in a divorce to resolve disputes without the stress inherent in most court appearances. In general, alternative dispute resolution can be preferable for many couples because it is usually quicker and much cheaper than litigation to resolve disputes in a divorce.

Some of the other benefits of alternative dispute resolution can include:

  • More control over certain outcomes (you select your arbitrator or mediator, but have no say in your judge);
  • Better for maintaining relationships;
  • Minimizes impact on children;
  • Less formal; and
  • Can be confidential.

Alternative Dispute Resolution Resources in Texas

Alternative Dispute Resolution | Houston Bar Association (HBA) — The Alternative Dispute Resolution Section of the HBA is committed to educating and informing members on the benefits and all aspects of mediation, arbitration, and other forms of alternatives to litigation. The Section has a Council which meets monthly to plan education programs presented monthly from September until May. You can also learn more about the Family Law and Collaborative Law Sections of the HBA.

Houston Bar Association
1111 Bagby St., FLB 200
Houston, TX 77002
(713) 759-1133

Texas Family Code | Chapter 6, Subchapter G. Alternative Dispute Resolution — View the section of the Texas Family Code dedicated to alternative dispute resolution. Learn more about arbitration procedures and mediation procedures as well as determination of validity and enforceability of contract containing agreement to arbitrate. You can also read the statute about informal settlement conferences.

Find an Alternative Dispute Resolution Attorney in Houston, TX

If you have been ordered to use or are considering using alternative dispute resolution for your divorce proceeding in Southeast Texas, it is in your best interest to still have legal representation. Sydow Law Firm helps individuals in communities throughout Fort Bend County and Harris County

Houston lawyer Michael Sydow is an experienced civil trial attorney and a Fellow for both the Texas Bar Foundation and the Houston Bar Foundation. He can review your case and answer all of your legal questions as soon as you call (713) 622-9700 or submit an online contact form to receive a free initial consultation.

Sydow Law Firm