What is mediation? Mediation is a process where couples enlist a mediator’s skills to reach agreements regarding the issues they face in a divorce: child custody, child support, property settlement, dividing debts, and maintenance.
How does it work? You and your significant other meet with me. We look at what areas you have agreed on. We then tackle the issues that you haven’t. You have a chance to tell your significant other what you want and why you want it. You can do this in a safe place because I’m the third party to keep you civil to each other.
If you reach a brick wall on an issue, we brainstorm ideas that the two of you haven’t thought of.
When we are done, I prepare a mediation agreement for the two of you to sign. This is not a legal document, but forms the basis of the legal agreement that you will file with the court.
Is working with my significant other important? Being able to work through this together can save you time and money. If you have kids, learning to work together is really important because you’ve got kids to raise. And, even after they are out of the nest, there will still be times, such as weddings and college graduations, where you will need to be with your significant other. You can make your life on your kids much easier if the two of you can respectfully coexist. Mediation can help start that process.
What if I am afraid of my significant other? When you mediate, you need to feel strong. If you are afraid of either verbal or physical abuse, there are things that I can offer to make you feel safe and secure: I can separate the two of you into different rooms. I can adjust arrival and departure times so that you won’t be afraid that you’ll be confronted by the other. But, if those safeguards aren’t enough to make you feel safe, mediation might not be for you.
How long does mediation take? If you mediate without attorneys, my meditations last about two hours per session. On average, it takes three to four sessions to resolve a case. If you are able to meet weekly, your case could be resolved in a month (but you still need to file the paperwork!)
If you each have a family lawyer or divorce lawyer, we typically hold day long mediation sessions. The lawyers can write up the paperwork at the end of the mediation, file it soon thereafter, and you’ll probably be divorced within a week or two of the mediation session.
Can I get my divorce completed more quickly if I mediate? I can tell you horror stories of lengthy divorce cases: one year… even two years! Can you imagine going through a divorce for two years? A successful mediation can be done in a matter of a few months. You can then move on with your life.
What does it cost? My most recent mediation case without attorneys cost the couple about $1,000. If they chose to have an attorney write up the paperwork, it would probably cost an additional $1,000. This might sound like a lot of money. But, most lawyers charge retainers for far more than this.
Do I need a lawyer? Good question. Although I am an attorney, I cannot give you legal advice. You might feel more comfortable having a family lawyer present during mediation, or having an attorney to whom you can telephone with legal questions during the mediation session. Otherwise, the court system provides you the legal forms you need to complete the divorce process.
Can I file the mediation agreement with the judge? No, the mediation agreement is not meant to be your final divorce paperwork. You will either have to fill out the paperwork yourself using the Minnesota Court’s website or hire an attorney to help you.