Ford+Bergner LLP is pleased to offer Mediation Services in the areas of guardianship litigation cases and probate litigation cases. The dictionary defines mediation as “an attempt to bring out a peaceful settlement or compromise between disputants through the objective intervention of a neutral party.” More simply stated, mediation is negotiation facilitated by a neutral third-party.

In the context of a dispute between parties in litigation, mediation is an alternative manner of resolving the dispute without having a Court or a jury determine the issue for the parties. Instead, the mediation process allows the parties to come together and craft an agreement to resolve their differences, and the neutral third-party mediator acts as a go-between to help the parties come to that resolution.

Below, we have tried to provide useful information that will assist you to understand the mediation process generally and the services that Ford+Bergner can offer you in this area.

» The Mediation Process:

Mediation is an informal, completely voluntary process that allows the parties to come to an agreed resolution of their dispute without either a Judge or a Jury making the decision for them. The goal of the mediation is to produce an agreement that will not only resolve the need for the pending litigation but that will also give each party the ability to move forward feeling as though they reached a result that addressed not only their legal issues but also the underlying interests that prompted the litigation.

» Confidentiality in Mediation:

Mediation is a completely confidential process. As a result, any of the information discussed during the mediation is strictly confidential and cannot be disclosed outside of the mediation. Likewise, any information revealed to the mediator in the context of the mediation is held in the strictest of confidence and cannot be revealed to anyone outside of the mediation process. Accordingly, the mediator cannot be forced to testify in Court about any information discussed in the mediation. Ford+Bergner strictly upholds the confidential nature of the mediation process and encourages you to contact us if you have information regarding confidentiality in this process.

» Mediator:

F+B Managing Partner Don Ford brings many years of probate and guardianship experience to the table in helping resolve contested probate and guardianship cases. Unlike many mediators, Mr. Ford takes the view that an effective mediator should possess an expertise in the subject matter areas of the dispute that he is mediating. Accordingly, his extensive background as a probate and guardianship litigatorprovides an excellent basis to be able to help disputing parties dig into the issues that are driving the litigation. Likewise, Mr. Ford’s background and experience in these areas helps him to see methods for resolving these disputes that mediators with less experience in these areas may not possess.

» Mediation Training/Education:

Mr. Ford received his mediation training at the nationally-renowned Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University. U.S. News & World Reports has ranked the Straus Institute program as the #1 dispute resolution program in the country for the last five consecutive years, in part because of the rigorous, hands-on training that it gives to each of its students training to be mediators. In addition to his training through the Straus Institute, Mr. Ford has an extensive educational background through Baylor University’s Law School as well as its Masters of Taxation program. In law school, Mr. Ford completed a concentration in Trusts and Estates, and his entire career since graduating from law school has been focused in the areas of Probate, Estates, and Guardianships. Click Here for more information regarding Mr. Ford and his credentials.

» Mediation Practice Areas: Guardianship Litigation & Probate Litigation

As can be seen from our website, Ford+Bergner maintains a very focused practice in the areas of probate and guardianship litigation, and our mediation services are likewise focused in these same areas. Often times, probate and guardianship disputes are driven as much by family emotion and conflict as they are by a desire to protect an estate or protect the health and safety of a loved one. Our extensive background in probate and guardianship litigation offers insight into the best ways to resolve these types of disputes, giving consideration not only to the financial issues that may exist but also to the family emotion and discord that may be driving the dispute.

» Mediation Location and Facilities:

Ford+Bergner maintains offices in both Houston and Dallas. Our offices service not only Harris and Dallas counties but also the counties surrounding each of those counties. F&M is pleased to offer its mediation services in both of its offices. Additionally, because F&M handles cases all across Texas, we would be glad to discuss providing Mediation Services anywhere that you might have the need for our services.

In each of our offices, we have multiple conference rooms that we utilize in conducting a mediation. Our facilities allow for each party to be able to meet privately not only with their attorneys but also with the mediator as the mediation session progresses. Inasmuch as we recognize that a mediation can be stressful for all involved, we attempt to provide facilities that are comfortable and conducive to minimizing the stress associated with mediation.

» Mediation Fees:

Fees are charged on a flat-fee basis, per day of the mediation, and the fees are split between the parties.

» Frequently Asked Questions:

1. How does mediation work?

Mediation is a very flexible process that can be shaped to meet the needs of the parties. However, in the typical mediation, the mediator facilitates discussions between the parties by meeting with them, either together or separately, to try to determine areas of agreement upon which a full settlement might be crafted. By providing a neutral “outsider’s” view of the case, the mediator is able to help the parties focus on the strengths/weaknesses of their cases, the pros and cons of a settlement, as well as the issues in the litigation that have prevented settlement to that point.

2. How is the mediation scheduled?

Mediations generally start at 9:00 a.m. and are scheduled for either a full-day or a half-day. Normally, a half-day mediation concludes at 1:30 p.m., and a full-day mediation concludes at 6:00 p.m. However, we believe that a productive mediation should not be driven by a strict time restrictions. Accordingly, we schedule only one mediation on a given day, and we always hold open the opportunity for a mediation to continue as long as it is productive to do so.

3. Is my lawyer present at the mediation?

Yes. If you are represented by an attorney, your attorney is present with you at all stages of the mediation. You will be able to consult with your attorney about any and every question that you might have regarding the proposed mediation agreement. No decisions or agreements will be made until you are satisfied that you have received all of the advice from your attorney that you feel is necessary.

4. What happens if no settlement is reached in mediation?

In the rare instance that mediation is unsuccessful, then the parties still have the opportunity to have their case decided by a judge or a jury. Likewise, if the parties later decide that a second opportunity at mediation would be productive, then we hold open the option for a later session at mediation.