Courts in Minnesota generally require the parties to attempt to settle their case outside of court or through the use of “alternative dispute resolution” (ADR) before a trial will be held. Mediation is one of these ADR processes used to resolve disputes when the parties are unable to negotiate a resolution either directly or through their attorneys. Mediation is not a low cost alternative to having at least one lawyer involved in drafting the documents necessary to finalize a divorce or child custody matter. Mediation involves the parties meeting with a neutral mediator to try to settle their dispute(s), whether they involve child custody, parenting time, property division, spousal maintenance, child support or other issues like where a child attends school or modifying prior orders if someone moves for instance.
Mediation encourages parties to take responsibility for resolving their own problems and to depend less on the professionals. Mediation often works well in allowing the parties to retain more control over their settlement; it reduces the level of hostility and can often save time and money. I generally do not recommend mediation until and unless the party gets legal advice from an experienced attorney in advance of the mediation so they can be prepared to settle their case appropriately.
If the parties are able to reach an agreement in mediation, the mediator will generally prepare a Mediated Settlement Agreement specifying the terms of the parties’ tentative agreements and both parties receive a copy. Both parties are encouraged to review the terms of the agreement with an attorney. If mediation is unsuccessful, there are other dispute resolution processes to further assist the parties or either party generally has a right to a trial at the end of the litigation process.
Some of the advantages of
- People who reach agreement in mediation are more likely to be satisfied with the terms of their divorce.
- People who reach agreement in mediation are more likely to comply with the terms of the divorce and less likely to return to court.
- People who have reached agreement in mediation tend to find it easier to deal with their former spouse after divorce. This is especially important if there are children of the marriage.
I am both an attorney and mediator and have been involved in hundreds of mediations. If you would like to learn more about mediation and whether it would be right for you, please feel free to call me for a consultation at no cost.