Most people who face family law disputes have little idea what to expect. They’ve never had to hire a lawyer before. And much of what they know about attorneys comes from TV, so they envision courtroom drama, juries and angry judges in long black robes.
The truth is that most family law conflicts are resolved in ways that are radically different than what you’d expect to see in a TV courtroom. In Minnesota, this often means mediation. Mediation and other alternative dispute resolution methods help to resolve family conflict related to divorce or other family law issues outside of the courtroom.
Here are some things that might surprise you about mediation:
The decision is yours—not the mediator’s. When you work with a Rule 114 qualified mediator to resolve family law issues, you are working with someone whose sole purpose is to help you and the other party reach a resolution. The neutral doesn’t represent you or the other person. He or she doesn’t act as a judge. Instead, your mediator acts as a sounding board to help you reach consensus on the family law decisions you two must make.
One of the great benefits of mediation is that this neutral does not hand down a verdict or make any decisions for you. Instead, spouses or co-parents come to an agreement themselves. This proves to make couples happier with their arrangements. And statistics show that they are also more likely to comply with those agreements and less likely to end up back in court.
You can tailor the mediation process to your needs and communication style. Sitting down and discussing matters face-to-face with your soon-to-be ex can seem intimidating. Mediation allows for greater flexibility in these instances, to the relief of most individuals who choose this path. Your mediator can work with you in a way that makes you feel comfortable.
For instance, you do not need to sit with the other party during mediation. The mediation will begin the process with opening statements before all parties, and then you can move to separate rooms. The mediator may speak with you and your attorney about an issue, and then leave to speak with the other party separately. The mediator will then return and share the other party’s perspective with you. This will continue until you reach a consensus or you no longer wish to continue.
Of course, you and the other party can choose to sit together to hash out a solution. Many people prefer this method because it gives them a chance to tell their side of the story and to share their perspective directly with the other party.
It’s important for you to know that special provisions of the law exist to protect victims of family violence. If domestic violence against a spouse, co-parent or child in your family is an issue, the law lets you opt out of mediation.
Mediation is confidential. In our state, Minnesota Rule 114.08 protects mediation discussions, communications and notes. Specifically, neither party can use as evidence in court anything said or written during the mediation process. The Rule also says that mediators cannot act as witnesses at trial. The legislature created the law this way to help encourage people who use family mediation to speak openly in a way that leads to solutions and settlement.
You don’t have to go it alone. Most people wrongly believe that they have to go through mediation without legal representation. That is not true. Your attorney can be by your side the entire time, guiding you through the process and advising you on the decisions you need to make.
What’s more, mediation also allows for professional assistance from accountants, appraisers, financial planners, therapists and child specialists. Each of these parties can offer their insight to help you and the other party come to an agreement.
Talk to a Lawyer to Learn More Benefits of Family Law Mediation
If the above-mentioned benefits sound like they may make your divorce or child custody matter easier to handle, call a family lawyer to learn more. It never hurts to better understand your options before you make any decisions as to how to move forward.