Visitation Access

A surfer asks:  

I have some questions regarding my child’s father and his access for visitation.  I can’t afford a lawyer.  Where can I go for help?  Also, does it matter that we were never married?

Kris Responds:

Start with a website:—  a website from the Legal Aid of Northwest Texas, Inc, that discusses basic questions regarding parenting and supporting the care of a child for citizens residing in the State of Texas.  On this website, issues pertaining to paternity, rights and marriage status are addressed.

Most counties have legal aid and family services located within their county directories that also dispense information and resources that can help.

Mediation is a great method for both parents to “get on the same page” with those issues that the law gives choices and/or doesn’t address specifically.  If parents are in agreement and the court is satisfied that the child is being taken care of in accordance with the law, rarely will a judge decide in disfavor of a mediated agreement between parents regardless of their marital status.

Juvenile Court Mediation

A Mediator from Europe asks…. 

perhaps you remember me. I was at the DRC  2 years ago (Master in Mediation Practicum). I hope you can help me. I’m looking for information about “Juvenile Court Victim/Offender Mediation and Juvenile Court Prerelease/Parent-Child Mediation

For example who decides if a case is “transmitted” to mediation (the law?) how old are the kids, has the judge to give his o.k. to the result of the mediation, who is responsible for the controlling etc. We have, since january 2007, the possibility to (provide)  victim-offender mediations in Switzerland (by law)and we want to learn of all your experiences. Do you think that you can give me some information? It would be very
Thank you
Hello Charlotte!

Yes I do remember you and remember that you had an interest in our Juvenile
Court Mediation Program.

Marty Shumaker was the one who conducted your tour that time and knows more
about that program than anyone.  I am cc’ing her on this message so that she
can respond to your questions directly.

The Judge orders mediation for children who are detained and/or those who
are presenting for a hearing without detention.   There is no law that
specifies mediation in any way for Juveniles…it is a judge’s opinion of
whether and when to order mediation.

There are two programs that prevail at the Gardner- Betts facility:  The
Victim/Offender Mediation Program and the Parent/Child Pre-release Mediation
Program (the latter is where children are detained and must mediate with
their families a  “plan” for returning home in hopes of preventing the
misconduct from continuing.

Both programs are described on the DRC website at under
“Mediation Services” on the left menu.

Good to hear from you!  I am so glad that our Practicum Program for European Mediators is paying off in increased exposure in your country!


Mediation with non-paying client

A surfer writes:

… I have a question ~ I am a Realtor.  I sold a house for a client and have all the proper documentation requited.  Contract with the client that he is to pay me 3% at the time of closing.  Then at closing, he realized that he was upside down and said that he would pay me later.  I closed the property.  He has never paid me.  He is now building houses left and right and making money.  How would I go about getting him to mediation?  If he does not show up, does that mean that I win a judgement?  Then can I put a lien on his properties?  Thanks for your help!

Kris Responds:

Give the Case Management staff a call at the center and let them advise you on the steps to obtain a mediation.

The mediation process is statutorily protected as a volunteer endeavor, therefore, there are no ‘sanctions’ for not showing.  However, the court looks favorably on those who try to mediate and scrutinizes those who don’t, therefore, usually it is in everyone’s best interest if a mediation is attempted in good faith.

The staff will handle the call to the other party.  They will do their best to demonstrate how the mediation can be in the best interest of both you and contractor.  Surely, if he is doing well, he doesn’t want to take the time or money to conduct a legal fight with you.  There’s minimal risk with a mediation and a good chance (about 70% of the cases settle and 98% of all parties were satisfied) that it will serve you both..

Good Luck!


Out of state tuition?

A surfer asks:

I’m wanting to get into the mediation field and im in Arizona…does that change the price of tuition? Also is the course a credit course? And do i need to take the course in Arizona to ensure job placement or is that even a factor?

Kris Responds:

Thank you for your inquiry into our Basic 40 Hour Mediation Training Course. In answer to your questions:

The price of the tuition is the same regardless of residence.

The course fulfills Texas’ Statutory requirements in order to practice basic mediation for court referred cases in Texas. For Family Cases, additional training is required.

The credentials vary from state to state, and I am unaware of the basic requirements for your home state. For specific requirements and utilization of ADR in your state, I would suggest that you contact your state’s chapter of the Association of Conflict Resolution ( or google your state’s chapter of professional mediator organization ( In Texas, this is the Texas Association of Mediators or TAM).

For Volunteer opportunities: contact: National Association for Community Mediation ( and request community mediation resources in your state.

I hope this helps.


TEA Mediator Qualification

A surfer writes:

I am an attorney and am building a practice focusing on Special Education counseling, training and mediation (ultimately, I’d like to get on TEA’s list of approved mediators for Special Education disputes). Do you know if your course satisfies TEA’s mediator qualifications requirements (or if there are any)? Also, does your company ever do trainings specifically targeted to Special Ed mediators?

Kris Responds:

The short answer to your TEA requirements is “yes”. Our Basic 40 Hour Mediation Course satisfies statutory requirements for Basic Mediation training in the state of Texas and TEA honors those requirements.

In regard to your second question, we have provided custom trainings to many groups including higher education professionals and special education audiences. We do not provide– on a regular basis– any specialized training for “special education mediators”, though we probably could if the demand/requests were there. TEA might be a good source for questioning where this type of advanced mediator training could be found. Another source of information about the training of mediators in Texas can be found on the Texas Mediation Trainers Roundtable website

Good Luck!


Teacher interested in mediating

From a Teaching Professional:

I am a 20 year veteran teacher interested in becoming a mediator as a way to be a civic volunteer and also to possibly start a second vocation. If you have a minute, I am curious about the following issues:

  • Some of the research I have done indicates that this is more of a field for those who are lawyers. Is this true?
  • Is this a field in which I could feasibly earn a living?
  • After I complete the training, what is the best way to begin this career?

I appreciate your time in answering my questions.

Kris Responds:

As a career, lawyers and other professionals with an established clientele have been able to incorporate these skills more readily to what they already do. Having said that, I would respond with a question, “how do you define career”…because many people from so many walks of life have found ways to call themselves a mediator within the context of their chosen fields. For instance, many state agencies now have mediators on staff to help resolve human resource complaints, vendor/contract disputes and consumer dissatisfaction related issues. In that sense, a good case can be made for the use of a “mediator” title and credential as being appropriate for many. However, in the more restrictive sense of hanging a shingle out and having the public seekyour services, you are right to assume that the majority of referrals would be coming from the legal community and, unless a specific marketing niche (such as adoption disputes, e.g.) has been identified with your name; it would be not be likely that a ready stream of referrals are out there waiting to call. I would say it is difficult to earn a living as a mediator, even if you are a lawyer, psychologist or other solo practitioner in a different field. The reason is that the public does not yet embrace the need for a mediator; much like it was resistant to the idea of a counselor 40 yrs. ago. I expect this to change as the world grows tired of the more adversarial means to resolve disputes–including the disenchantment with law suits.

Thinking more broadly, one can earn a living with related functions such as training services, group facilitation endeavors, strategic planning and other “consensus” building activities that many employers are interested in funding. Mediation skills and “conflict theory” are integral to these skills and, the DRC’s training is a great place to jumpstart in this direction.

Also, it would be advisable to join professional mediation organizations representing the interests of professional mediators and learn how to market your skills. Developing a specialty niche while staying diverse in a number of activities would be advisable. If your background is the teaching field, then you might want to market higher education representatives, especially where funding and legislative decisions are prevalent. Examples such as special education services or faculty/student disputes come to mind. Some questions to answer might be1) In the organizations you are most familiar with, where are the lawsuits targeted? 2) Who are the critical contacts to help divert those complaints to a different route of resolution. Then be able to define your role in helping to make that happen.

Regardless of what title you choose for yourself, the Basic 40 Hour Mediation Training as a life skills course is invaluable in conducting the routine aspects of anyone’s life. For this reason alone, the course is popular and continues to enjoy waiting list status. Best of luck in your own journey regarding this direction, and I do hope we see you in a future class.


Divorce Attorney

A surfer writes:

What can happen if one party in the divorce has an attorney,and the other does not and they are coming their to get thing worked out for the two year old child?And what can happen if nothing gets worked out before they go to court?

Kris Responds:

Well, what can happen is one party can feel a possible disadvantage if there are two people on one side of the table (one with legal expertise) keeping the table from feeling balanced or fair. What also can happen is two people work out an agreement with or without attorneys at the table. Our preference is that either you both have them; or neither have them at the mediation. We also prefer, if there are children or property involved, that the agreement be looked over by a family attorney if possible. If nothing gets worked out at the mediation, then the judge will order an “agreement” for you based on his/her judgement and knowledge of the Texas Family Code. This agreement may or may not best reflect your own individual interests in regard to your child, however, it will be binding until some modification is filed by a representative of either you or the ex.

I hope that you and your ex are able to come to some sort of understanding before that is necessary for the sake of your own best interests as well as those of your child.



Mediation for Dividing Assets

A surfer asks:

Hi Kris. If two people who are divorcing disagree with splitting their assets how can a mediator help? Thanks.

Kris Responds:

Well, believe it or not…they can…even strong willed people who are sure that they won’t or can’t budge. Most people don’t care nearly as much about assets as they do about what the assets represent. The armoir may matter because it is an heirloom…or a car may matter because it is the only means to independence, work…etc. There are also many assumptions made about each other that can add to an on-going desire to stay ‘dug in’ to a particular position. Divorce is painful and we may be coming from a survival motive because it feels that we are ‘losing’ or will ‘lose more’ if we don’t appear strong and unbending. People cling to their positions for a variety of reasons —some as basic as survival security, or psychological/emotional attachment and finally, even out of principle….a mediator is skilled in helping each party reflect their own underlying as well as understanding more of the other party’s true interests. Oftentimes, these stated positions appear incompatible but the underlying interests are not so incompatible. Then, there is something a little magical about sitting down at a table with the help of a neutral that declares a good faith effort to try and work it out. This higher order of problem solving appeals to many who subscribe to a civilized way of managing conflict and people more often than not–rise to the occasion. Everybody gives a little, and everybody gains more than if they hand it off to an arbitrating force such as a judge.

I hope this provides some answers to your very worthwhile question. Please feel free to give Scott Rich a call at the center at 371- 0033 on Monday for a more in-depth description of what mediation can do.

Career Path in Mediation

A surfer asks:

I am relocating back to Texas, in particular Austin, and am seeking a career path in mediation. Your suggestions in this regard would be greatly appreciated. I have a background of having been on a large board of REALTORS as the chair of committees involving dispute resolution and feel your training would be excellent as a step towards a mediation career. Thank you for any information you can share. Enjoy your day!

Kris Responds:

Welcome back to Texas! A lot of realtors take our Mediator Training Course since mediation is so prominent in both real estate contract law and the reliance on negotiation in the field is so prevalent. I highly recommend the course for anyone brokering between the public and any service or goods. As a career move, it will be imperative to establish marketing contacts with those entities most likely to encounter conflict referrals in your chosen field. Without the specialty niche (e.g. historical home specialist), the average citizen will talk to a lawyer who will refer to an attorney mediator without necessarily thinking of another specialty. Very few mediations are first person referred. That is, very few people have a conflict and then go to the hone book and call a mediator. Most of the cases come from an agency, case management system, the legal community or finally a court. There are some successful non-attorney mediators because of their reputation and liason with other referral sources. Talking with them might be a good idea.

However, being a mediator adds to your resume an element considered desireous by any future employer and the life skills gained are invaluable. I hope to see you in one of our courses.

Questions from a Williamson County Mother

Hi, Kris. I have a basic question regarding visitation. My Exhusband and I have a “standard” extended visitation schedule. I am the primary (custodial) parent. He gets our child every first, third, and fifth weekend…and 30 days during the summer with all the standard holiday stuff, etc. Because it is relevant to the end of this story, I should tell you that my Ex lives with his mother….so she gets to see our daughter quite often during the year…as much as my Ex does. Well, this year, right before my Ex’s 30 days of possession this summer, he and his girlfriend are going out of the country on a cruise (June 24 – July 2). He didn’t realize it encompassed his “fifth” weekend (June 29 – July 1) when he scheduled the cruise. Now, because he can’t “exercise his parental rights of visitation” that weekend, he wants me to trade him a weekend…but father’s day weekend is off the table and that leaves very few weekends at my option…and this is RIGHT before I’m going to be separated from my daughter for 30 days anyway. I’m not inclined to “trade” one of my weekends. Because I won’t “trade,” he said, even though he isn’t even going to be in this country at the time, that he would send his mother (who has no court assigned visitation rights) to come and get her for the weekend. I feel that he’s “informed me that he’s unable to exercise his parental rights that weekend” and that, although he may designate a competent adult to drop the child off or pick her up for “transportation purposes” only, I don’t believe he can ASSIGN his parental rights of visitation to someone else. Can he? Can I refuse to give my child to someone else when he’s unable to exercise his visitation?

I know the courts want both parents to be involved in the child’s life and in raising her. However, if she can’t be with her dad…because he’s on a cruise with his girlfriend…I believe the next best person for her to be with is her mother.

Can I refuse to turn her over to his mother that weekend while he’s gone?

Thanks so much for your advise.

Williamson County Mother

Kris responds:

Well, you are asking me a legal question and I cannot comment on that without getting into trouble because I am not a lawyer. But I would suggest that you and the Ex are the best people to figure out what to do here and this is an opportunity to practice responding to this problem as well as future dilemmas without undue expense or a court battle. Here are some questions I would ask you both to consider in making this decision.

1. How old is your daughter?

2. Is your daughter old enough to have an opinion and, if so, what would she like to do?

3. While there are primary “positions” being stated by you and her father as to what you each want, I would ask you what interests (yours, your Ex’s and your daughter’s) are being served by the positions taken by each of you? –in other words, what is being accomplished by holding on to your opposed positions…

4. Six months from now, or a year or two down the road, what significance will a decision either way have on you both as a co-parenting in terms of taking care of your daughter?.

5. Lastly, what model do you want to exemplify for your daughter when she is faced with a tough decision such as this one—what values, beliefs or otherwise standards of conduct would you want her to learn by watching her parents practice this and future decision making?

These are the kinds of questions a mediator would explore with the two of you in a private setting without your daughter or the grandmother present in hopes that the two of you would be able to set aside any personal agendas from history or current relationship challenges and begin practicing a focused effort on how to “team parent”.

Legal issues aside, I can tell you that the most successful post divorce parenting teams with the best adjusted children are those that are willing to let go of each of their hard and held-fast positions in order to examine what will accomplish the goal –that of giving your daughter the security of knowing her parents love her, want the best for her and can work together to figure out what to do in a given situation posing a challenge. Staying peaceful and mutually supportive of one another in your daughter’s eyes will be the best parenting gift you both can give her. A mediator can help you figure out how to do this.

Let us know if we can help you with a mediation for you and your Ex. This is a great example of a case for mediation at the Center.

Best Regards,