There are a lot of misconceptions about divorce mediation in Minnesota. The following might be helpful:
1. What is mediation? It is a process in which the parties to a divorce action and their attorneys meet with a neutral third party in an attempt to resolve disagreements through negotiations.
2. Should we do mediation right away? Probably not. You should wait to see whether you and your spouse have a significant disagreement that cannot be resolved between the two of you, or, between the two of you with input from your attorneys.
Generally I try resolve disputes from the beginning. I try to find out whether there are intractable disputes. Sometimes disputes exist simply because people do not know what the law requires. Often the other attorney and I can reach a settlement without the need for a mediator. This is always better, because mediation costs about $250 per hour. Spend a day in medation and, well, you do the math.
3. Do I need an attorney if I go to mediation? Yes. Otherwise, you will probably not know what your legal rights and entitlements are. How can you bargain for something if you do not know about it, or you do not know whether you have an interest in it?
4. Will the mediator give me legal advice? No. The mediator’s job is to be neutral, and to try to get you and your spouse to reach an agreement. The mediator should not be giving legal advice to you, and she should not be giving legal advice to your spouse. If she did, she would no longer be neutral. And, the mediator is not interested in getting you the best possible deal. The mediator just wants to settle the case. He or she isn’t necessarily interested in whether you get a “fair” settlement.
5. How should I pick a mediator? You probably shouldn’t. Some mediators are good, some are ineffective. A Minnesota divorce lawyer who has experience generally knows who the good mediators are. The same names tend to come up often.
6. What if mediation doesn’t work? Well, not everything works. At least you tried. If you cannot settle the case during mediation, the case is placed on the court’s litigation calendar. A pre-trial hearing is scheduled, to be followed by a trial.
But–if that happens, all is not lost. There is still time to settle the case. There is still time to return to mediation. That said, sometimes trials are the easiest way to resolve a dispute.
For more information, please feel free to call me at (952) 270-7700.