Mediation is a process in which the parties to a divorce and their attorneys meet with a neutral third party in an attempt to resolve their disagreements, without going to trial. The neutral third party should be a trained mediator. Usually she is a divorce attorney or other professional who has experience with divorces, along with training in how to mediate disputes.
My opinion is that mediation is a good thing. While there are exceptions, it is usually better for parties to resolve their differences through negotiation than it is for the government to make the decision for them. (That’s what happens when a case goes to trial–the government, a judge, decides the disputed issues.)
It is also true that sometimes trials are necessary. But, even in those cases, when it becomes apparent to the other side that you are ready and willing to go to trial, they other side agrees to meet you half way.
Mediation is not the best first step to take because it is expensive. The best first step is to see whether the attorneys and parties can resolve the issues on their own, taking into account what each party wants, and what each party can reasonably expect, given the law as it applies to the facts of their case. But, if that does not work, mediation then makes a lot of sense.
In Hennepin County and a few other counties in Minnesota, there is a process called “Early Neutral Evaluation” and one called “Financial Early Neutral Evaluation.” In these processes, the court refers the parties to neutral evaluators who try to help the parties reach an agreement. If the parties cannot agree, the neutral evaluators tell the parties what they perceive as the strengths and weaknesses of their respective cases. Early Neutral Evaluation is used for custody and parenting time disagreements. Financial Early Neutral Evaluation is used for financial disputes–disputes about things like alimony, child support, division of assets and division of debts.
This is just an overview of the process. It is actually quite a bit more complex. Getting good results in mediation requires that one be prepared before hand with the facts, and that one have an attorney who has a good sense of diplomacy and good negotiating skills. As always, if you have questions about this or other Minnesota divorce issues, you can call Fiskum Law at (952) 270-7700.