Mediated Settlement Agreement
A mediated settlement agreement, also known as MSA is a contract. It is binding on the parties once signed.
If you are represented by an attorney, then your attorney must sign as well. The purpose of a mediation is for the parties to reach an agreement. Therefore, once you have signed, any of the parties can file the agreement with the court. If the parties do not reach an agreement, the mediator will call an ‘impasse’, aka a deadlock.
So, what happens if you have signed an MSA but changed your mind the next day?
First, the Texas Family Code creates an exception that voids an MSA when one of the party is a family violence victim.
Secondly, the petitioning party may file an appeal with the court where the case is pending. Ask the court for relief from judgment incidental or based on the MSA. Most courts will overturn the Agreement (like any other contract) if there is proof of intentional fraud.
Also, is there any newly discovered evidence that was intentionally concealed during mediation that would have significantly affected the outcome of the case or MSA?
Lastly, if a mediator had conflict of interest or was partial during the mediation process; yes, this may be grounds for voiding a mediated settlement agreement, especially if the partiality affected an important issue in the case.
This list is not mutually exclusive.
Do you need the court to toss aside an MSA?
Think of the general rules which void a contract: mutual mistake on an important issue, fraud, or duress (or in family law cases, family violence).
Do I need an attorney for mediation in Texas?
It depends on how complex or simple your case is. Here are basic guidelines to follow when thinking about whether to hire an attorney for your next mediation:
- Is your case a simple, uncontested divorce? Most couples can handle this type of mediation on their own. When both parties already have an agreement as to the division of properties and/or custody, you have little need for an attorney during mediation.
- Contested cases? One of the parties can frustrates the purpose of mediation when they want to fight over every detail of the marriage. It is best to hire an attorney to make sure your rights are not infringed or overlook. The mediator will not and should not fight for you because a mediator must remain neutral throughout the process.
- When the opposing side has an attorney, a better course of action is to retain your own counsel.
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