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.
What Exactly Is a Mediator in Hutchinson, MN?
As mentioned, not all divorces must go to court. Sometimes, when two spouses can work together and compromise, they can go through mediation instead.
In fact, Minnesota typically requires divorcing couples to go through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) before taking a divorce to court. Mediation is one of the types of ADR.
Mediators can be attorneys. Or they can be other types of mediation professionals. Whatever type of mediator you hire, he or she will have one goal: to get you and your spouse to compromise on the terms of the divorce.
One of the key benefits of mediation is that the spouses get full control of the divorce agreement. This is often favorable because most divorcing couples don’t want to give up control over their assets, debts, and children to a judge.
What Do Mediators Do?
As we mentioned, mediators help spouses draft the terms of their divorce. For example, a mediator might help you and your spouse determine one or more of the following divorce terms:
- Alimony: also known as spousal maintenance in Minnesota), the lesser-earning spouse can earn alimony from the greater-earning spouse in some circumstances.
- Child Support: one spouse may have to agree to pay child support depending on the number of children produced from the marriage and the income of each divorcing spouse.
- Child Custody: during divorce, parents must decide who will have primary custody of any children produced from the marriage or whether both parents will share custody.
- Asset Division: Minnesota is an equitable division state, meaning you and your spouse must divide all marital assets equitably.
- Debt Division: With the exception of non-marital debts, Minnesota divorce laws also mandate that divorcing spouses equitably divide their liabilities after separation.
Divorcing spouses typically set up mediation sessions once every two weeks. Each session lasts an average of 2–3 hours. The majority of spouses come to an agreement and reach a settlement after 2–3 sessions of mediation.
Mediators vs. Regular Divorce Attorneys
Many mediators are lawyers. However, it’s important to understand that some mediators are not educated in legal processes. The state of Minnesota doesn’t regulate the mediator profession, meaning anyone can technically market their services as mediation.
At the same time, not all divorce attorneys also specialize in mediation. Divorce attorneys are experts in the law. Legal expertise can help in mediation, but the more significant factor is how well the divorce attorney can help you and your spouse come to mutually agreeable terms.
Click here to learn more about the benefits of mediation.
How Much Does Mediation Cost?
The cost for mediation varies by region. In general, though, you can expect to pay your mediator by the hour. Some mediators will charge more than a divorce attorney; other mediators will charge a similar per-hour rate as a divorce attorney.
The average family attorney charges $232 per hour in Minnesota. So, you can expect to pay more, but probably not less, for mediation services in Hutchinson, MN.
When Should a Minnesota 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 mediation 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.
When Is Divorce Mediation Not an Option in Hutchison, MN?
Almost all divorcing spouses can work with a mediator. However, here are some cases where mediation may not be ideal in Hutchinson, MN:
- You and your partner have a history of domestic violence
- You and your partner aren’t willing to compromise on the terms of the divorce
In all other cases, mediation should always be your first option. Even if you have significant assets on the line, children, or are seeking alimony, mediation can work for you.
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
Still not convinced that mediation is right for your divorce? Then check out the following benefits of choosing mediation.
Mediation Will Save You Money on Legal Fees
A dissolution of marriage isn’t cheap in Minnesota. Each divorcing spouse must pay $400 just to file the petition for dissolution of marriage. That’s not even to mention filing fees for additional motions and, most expensive of all, court attorney fees.
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.
Mediators Can Help Salvage the Relationship
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.
Mediated Divorces Allow More Spousal Control
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.
Mediation Takes Less Time
The average mediated divorce takes about 6–8 hours. You and your spouse can choose to divide up these hours across multiple mediation sessions. Compare this timeline to a divorce that goes to trial, which can take anywhere from six months to more than two years.
The more complicated your divorce gets, the more time you’ll spend in court. This is why it’s always a good idea to try mediation first. Even if it doesn’t work for you and your spouse, you will have saved yourself countless hours on the issues you can compromise on.
Contact a Dedicated Family Mediation Attorney in Minnesota
Mediation is the best option for anyone going through a divorce. It’s significantly less expensive, less time-consuming, and more civil than a court divorce. Plus, you and your spouse will have far more control over the terms of your dissolution of marriage.
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.
Original article published on November 12, 2019 and updated on November 11, 2021 .