In many family law cases, the parties agree on broad, general issues. Parenting time disputes are a good illustration. Most parents agree that these orders should be in the best interests of the children. But most parents disagree as to what constitutes “best interests” in a given situation.
Quite often, a good family law mediator can bridge the gap between an agreement in principle and a specific, enforceable agreed order. In fact, assuming both parties negotiate in good faith, mediation may succeed in as many as 90 percent of cases.
In a nutshell, “good faith” means that both parties are willing to make reasonable concessions to get a deal done. Good faith also means that, especially in property division and other financial matters, both parties place all their cards on the table.
Because of the success rate, and the other benefits of mediation outlined below, Hutchinson, MN lawyers often use mediation to resolve even high-conflict divorce and family law matters.
When Should a Mediator Intervene?
In some cases, early mediation is the best way to solve problems and bring the matter to a speedy conclusion. In other situations, however, it is better to wait until the litigation process is at least partially complete.
Pre-filing mediation, the earliest time a mediator may intervene, is often successful in parenting plan modification disputes. Many times, these disputes center around the residential parent’s relocation. If the non-residential parent wants to block the move out of spite, early mediation may be a waste of time. But if the non-residential parent has some legitimate concerns about the loss of parenting time, pre-filing medation often works.
Assume Mother gets a teaching offer from the University of Wisconsin, and she wants to move to Madison with the children. Madison is not on the other side of the world, but it is far enough away to end weekly visitation. If Father objects, a mediator might convince Mother to offer some concessions, like a longer summer visitation period, to offset the loss.
If pre-filing mediation is successful, the parties can present an agreed order to a McLeod County judge. Since most judges approve agreed orders without a hearing, the process moves much more quickly.
Sometimes, a family law case, especially a divorce, is a complete surprise. Additionally, since no case has ever been filed, a court does not yet have jurisdiction over the parties. Therefore, pre-filing mediation is probably not an option. However, early mediation may still be a good alternative for most Hutchinson, MN lawyers.
Early mediation, perhaps shortly after the judge issues temporary orders, is often effective in these cases. Early mediation maximizes the benefits of mediation. That’s assuming there are no major issues to resolve.
In other situations, the litigation process may need to go further. As mentioned, in financial matters, some spouses try to conceal their assets. Before mediation is effective, the discovery process must go forward in these cases. Quite often, a McLeod County judge must rule on a motion to compel discovery or a similar subject.
Hutchinson, MN Lawyers and Mediation Procedure
Emotional courtroom showdowns make great theater in movies and TV shows. But for Minnesota families with children, such emotional shootouts are usually not a good idea. After a divorce, the parties must be good co-parents. The more hard feelings there are, the more difficult co-parenting becomes.
So, family law mediation is extremely low key. These sessions usually occur in office suites instead of courthouses. Moreover, the parties spend most of their time in separate rooms.
After the Hutchinson, MN lawyers give brief opening statements, the family law mediator usually conducts shuttle diplomacy. The mediator conveys settlement offers and counter-offers back and forth until an agreement is reached. Typically, family law mediation sessions last a full day. Sometimes, they last a half day.
Accommodations are available. For example, if there are verified allegations of domestic abuse, a more secure environment makes everyone more relaxed.
Some Mediation Benefits in McLeod County
Reduced cost is probably the most frequently-cited mediation benefit. Hutchinson, MN lawyers may spend several weeks getting ready for trial, but only several hours getting ready for mediation. Additionally, mediation ends the case early, and time is money.
As mentioned, civility is important as well. If the parties are to be good co-parents, there needs to be a solid foundation. Many times, mediation provides that foundation. The parties often believe that, if they solved their problems without going to court once, they can do so again.
On a related note, mediation increases control over the outcome. A detached McLeod County judge does not dictate orders from the bench. Rather, the parties essentially draft their own orders. This arrangement often increases voluntary compliance, which is good news for everyone.
Contact a Dedicated Attorney
If done properly, family law mediation usually works. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.