Texas Court-Ordered Custody Mediation

Most parents fighting over child conservatorship and possession in Texas are required to attend mediation before heading to trial.

Like in voluntary mediation, the mediator is a neutral professional who helps the parents find a solution to disagreements.

Courts prefer that parents make decisions together rather than let a judge or jury decide, and mediation is an effort to move parents in that direction. It keeps parents in charge of their child's future and eases congestion in the court system.

Parents can ask a judge to waive the mediation requirement if there's been family violence or if mediation is otherwise unlikely to work.

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How it compares to voluntary mediation

Mediation is largely the same when required by a court as when parents choose to go as an alternative to litigation.

In both cases, the mediator cannot disclose information about your negotiations to anyone, apart from sharing your final agreement with the court. They will never serve as a witness or be subpoenaed.

Only information that must be reported to authorities is excepted from confidentiality: threats, revelations of abuse or neglect, plans to commit a crime, and similar admissions.

The process

In court-ordered mediation, the parents or their lawyers generally select a mediator together. If they can't agree, or if neither side objects, the court can choose instead. You should use a mediator trained in family law issues.

The mediator usually meets with each parent in a separate room, moving between the rooms to explain parenting plan options and find a plan both parents are happy with. Occasionally, the mediator asks parents if they'd rather discuss options face-to-face.

If you have a lawyer, they'll accompany you and advise you during mediation sessions.

Sessions last two hours to a full day. You'll have as many as necessary to reach an agreement or to decide that agreement is improbable (usually no more than five).

If parents don't agree on a parenting plan, the mediator notifies the court and the case continues through the legal process.

If parents do come to a full understanding, they turn their agreed-upon parenting plan into the court as a draft order. If the order doesn't raise concerns, the judge signs and the parents have settled.


The majority of Texas courts require parents to try mediation at least 30 days before trial. If you have a custody evaluation, you may want to wait until the evaluator's report is ready since this could have a major effect on negotiations.

Some courts require mediation even earlier — sometimes before a hearing about temporary orders can take place. This may be your only round of court-ordered mediation, or you may need to attend mediation again before trial, depending on your county.


Mediator's fees are usually around $100 an hour per party, but they can reach up to $450 an hour per party.

Each parent pays their own lawyer for any time the lawyer spends in mediation sessions or helping with preparation.

Preparing for mediation

If you prepare well for mediation, you're much more likely to reach an agreement.

Bring at least one parenting plan, including a possession schedule, so you can show concretely what you feel is best for your child. You may want to bring multiple options in case the other parent is more open to one idea than another. Your attorney can help you create these, or Custody X Change can walk you through the process step-by-step.

Tips for parents going to mediation

Mediation can be emotional and draining. Follow these tips to make it go smoothly:

  • Go in knowing where you're willing to compromise.
  • Arrive on time.
  • Use each minute wisely; make points succinctly, and focus on crucial topics.
  • Keep your child's interests at the forefront rather than your own.
  • Don't raise your voice or interrupt anyone.
  • Try not to speak negatively about the other parent.
  • Keep an open mind.
  • Be honest.
  • Take notes so you remember what happened.
  • Don't feel pressured into agreeing to anything you will regret.
  • Be forthcoming with any questions you have.

Tools for mediation

If mediation goes well, you could walk out with a parenting plan that will last until your child becomes an adult. Are you ready?

Bring a parenting plan and multiple possession schedules to suggest. You might also bring a list of child-related expenses or entries from a parenting journal.

The Custody X Change app enables you to create all these items in one place.

Custody X Change makes sure you're prepared not only for mediation but for every step of your conservatorship case.

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