In Minnesota, mediation is not a new or abstract legal idea. In many Family Law cases, it is the best option for spouses to resolve conflict and contested issues, especially during a divorce. Mediation can help foster a healthier environment to resolve issues including custody, parenting time and financial matters. However, mediation is not always a viable choice for the parties (especially if there is domestic abuse in the relationship). Mediation is only used to get beyond impasse. So if there is full agreement, mediation may not be required at all.
The Mediation Process
Mediation is an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process where a neutral third party acts as a communication facilitator between two people involved in a legal dispute. Mediation is a confidential process. In most Family Law cases, mediation takes place early in the process before the case becomes litigated in court, although mediation is beneficial at all stages of a case. A mediator is neutral and cannot advocate a legal position for either party. In addition, a mediator should not draft legal documents for submission to the court, even if the mediator is a licensed attorney. Some mediators have legal training, but many do not. Make sure to work with a mediator that has the proper acumen, skillset and training to properly address your issues and concerns. Mediation is not a binding process (arbitration is binding) and agreements made at mediation are not legally enforceable until they are formalized in a stipulation and agreed to and signed off by the parties and by the court.
It is probably easier to express when not to use mediation. If you have been abused, either emotionally or physically, mediation is most likely not an option for the case. If you and your spouse are not able to communicate due to any reason, mediation may not be for you. Mediation must be voluntary, and the parties in the case must be willing and able to communicate during the mediation process.
On the other hand, mediation is for you if you and your spouse truly want to work together to address and attempt to resolve contested issues. If parents can communicate in a healthy fashion, mediation will actually provide not only a co-parenting plan, but also help teach communication skills to help the parents to successfully co-parent for the long term.
Mediation may also be helpful to address the division of property and assets, and to resolve issues such as spousal maintenance (alimony).
The key to successful mediation is that both parties are willing to compromise and communicate for the best interest of their children and each other. Just because a marriage did not work out does not mean a divorce has to be spiteful and bitter. At one point, there was love in the household, and that does not always have to be forgotten to move on to a new life. To learn more about mediation and if it is right for you, please contact the attorneys at Lake Harriet Law Office, LLC at (612) 750-4843.