Mediators: What To Look for in your MN Divorce
Many people fear that divorce will be a long, contentious, drawn-out process in the courts. Fortunately, that is simply not true in many cases. Why? Because many of those going through a divorce choose a mediator to help them settle out of court before it has to go to trial.
The truth is that using a mediator can help you and your soon-to-be-ex resolve issues in your divorce outside of the courtroom. Seeking resolution in this way has an impact on the case and your experience in the divorce process. So, while divorce is never exactly a pleasant thing, using a mediator can make it far less hostile and just a little easier.
Here’s what you need to know about using a mediator in your Minnesota divorce and what types of things to be sure to look for in the mediator you choose.
Mediation in a Minnesota Divorce
Mediation is something that can be ordered by the court, but it is also something that can be chosen by the couple to proceed through the divorce process voluntarily.
The process works by first choosing a mediator to work with. Your attorney can normally recommend an experienced mediator to help you get started. Mediators are sometimes attorneys but may not always be – though it is best to work with one that is experienced in divorce and family law.
Mediators are not judges, and they don’t try to tell you what to do. They also are not your or your spouse’s attorney, even if they are an attorney. They are simply a neutral third party that can help you and your spouse to create a framework to identify issues that are present in your divorce and help you find solutions to those issues.
The issues mediators help within a divorce generally fall into one of these categories:
- Custody and parenting
- Financial support
- Division of property
During the mediation process in your divorce, you schedule sessions with the mediator as needed. The mediator helps you to create a plan for each session and provides you with information you need to exchange with your spouse in order to address the issues related to that session. They keep you on track in your divorce process.
Mediators also facilitate discussions you have in your sessions and help you to focus on what you want rather than on your positions overall. So, if you want more time with your kids on a daily basis, that’s the focus – instead of simply stating you want 50/50 custody. This allows you to see many possible solutions to an issue rather than just getting involved in an argument you hold steadfast in order to win.
Once all the issues in the divorce are ironed out, a Memorandum of Agreement is prepared by the mediator. It’s not binding, but it is a draft your attorney can use in the divorce decree that is presented to the judge. Once the judge signs your divorce decree, your divorce can be finalized.
What to Look for in a Mediator
There are qualities both parties in the divorce may want to look for in a mediator that will help the entire process go more smoothly, and they can help you each feel more comfortable. Look for:
- Someone who you feel can act impartially
- Someone who is respectful of both parties
- Someone who is perceptive and alert
- Someone who is knowledgeable about the issues in your case
- Someone who is experienced and has the background to handle your legal issues
- Someone who is willing to invest their time to help you get through the process
- Someone who can act non-coercively, especially at the end of the process if one party isn’t yet ready to sign
- Someone who is credible, which is why having your attorney suggest someone is a great option
- Someone who is adaptable to help address the complex issues of your case
There are a lot of advantages to divorce mediation that you should explore. Your attorney is a great resource to help you figure out if mediation will work in your divorce case.
The more you can organize yourselves outside of the courtroom, the smoother the entire process will be – and the more heard each party will feel. Divorces can feel like a terrible thing, but having a good mediator to help you really work through the issues surrounding your divorce. It can help you walk away feeling that it was as good of an experience as possible.
About the Author:
A former Assistant Public Defender for the Sixth Judicial District in Duluth and former staff attorney for the Indian Legal Assistance Program, Brent R. Olson is an experienced trial lawyer who has appeared in every Courthouse in the Sixth Judicial District and taken over three dozen cases to verdict. At LaCourse, Poole & Envall, Mr. Envall focuses on family law, workers’ compensation, and criminal defense. He has a strong belief in restorative justice and helped to develop the Domestic Violence Restorative Circles program.