In Tarrant County, and especially in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, our judges require us to go to mediation before we can get to a trial. One of the things that I always tell my clients, and they are very surprised to hear this, is it is not like what you see on TV where couples are arguing across the table from each other. When you see the headlines and you see the people that have been shot at the courthouse, those are usually family law cases, because as you can imagine, emotions run high. What our judges have said is we do not want couples in the same rooms when they are mediating.
When you mediate, at least in Tarrant County, the petitioner and their attorney are in one room and the respondent and their attorney are in another room. The mediator, which is usually either a retired judge or an attorney who has been trained in mediation, carries the offers back and forth between the two rooms helping you reach an agreement. It is quite a tedious process. There is a lot of waiting. You sit in one room and you wonder what is going on in the other room.
Frankly, most of the cases in Tarrant County settle before you get to trial. I think it is because most of the divorce attorneys in Tarrant County know what our judges expect. We know how our judges are going to rule. It does not matter if I represent the respondent or the petitioner. If you give me the facts and you are honest, I can tell you how my judge is going to rule because I know that judge. The judges are consistent. They try to be fair and when you have judges like that, you know what to expect. If you are a reasonable attorney, you can guide your clients, hopefully, to be reasonable.
Assuming all those pieces are in place, you have two attorneys telling their clients to be reasonable, usually you can reach an agreement; you can get somewhere in the middle. I would say probably 90% of our cases settle at mediation. We have a very high settlement rate.