Alternative Dispute Resolution

In Minnesota, alternative dispute resolution relates to processes that litigants may participate in as an alternative to a trial. Whether mediation, arbitration, early neutral evaluation or moderated settlement conferences, the vast majority of divorce and family law matters are resolved outside the courtroom.

Despite your best efforts, you and your partner have decided that divorce is the best option. However, you also intend to remain on good terms as you move on with your lives. Alternative dispute resolution may provide the framework you need to resolve potentially contentious issues without destroying your working relationship.

What Is Alternative Dispute Resolution? What’s the Goal?

The term ‘alternative dispute resolution’ refers to a variety of methods employed to avoid courtroom-based legal proceedings. In family law, ADR typically involves mediation or collaborative divorce. By employing mediation or collaboration, couples hope to keep their divorces as quick, affordable, and amicable as possible.

Although not a viable solution for all couples, ADR often allows divorcing spouses to avoid much of the stress and expense associated with a stereotypical courtroom divorce. Often, divorcing couples pursue ADR in hopes of maintaining amicable relationships as they move from romance to co-parenting. They hope to shield their children from the worst aspects of litigation, which can be incredibly stressful for the children of divorce.

Some spouses, although unable to resolve all issues through ADR, utilize this approach early in the divorce process to settle issues in which they share common ground. The remainder of the divorce can then be completed via litigation.

ADR Options

As mentioned above, two popular approaches to ADR in Minnesota are mediation and collaboration. In mediation, spouses work together (with guidance from a neutral third party) to secure mutually-beneficial outcomes to common divorce issues such as custody and property division. Mediation is, by definition, a non-adversarial approach.

Collaboration offers a valuable middle ground between litigation and mediation. In collaborative divorce, each spouse works closely with an attorney, but remains open to cooperation on many matters. Couples may be advised by a panel of experts, with extensive knowledge regarding financial matters and childcare concerns.

Although typically not employed for family issues, arbitration is also an ADR option in Minnesota. With arbitration, disputes are settled via third party professionals. A hybrid process known as mediation-arbitration allows for temporary mediation, with an arbitrator arriving at the final decision if an impasse between spouses occurs.

Interested in pursuing ADR in Minnesota? The right lawyer can successfully guide you through this challenging process. Seek counsel from the Brown Law Offices, P.A.

 

You often hear that you “marry the family.” A divorce means you may have to maintain a relationship with your ex-in-laws for the sake of the children. You also might like your ex-in-laws and want to keep in touch with them. It is possible to maintain a healthy relationship with your ex-in-laws if you use the right approach.

Prepare Yourself

You were close to your in-laws prior to divorce. Or maybe you didn’t like your in-laws prior to divorce. Regardless, your relationship will change despite your past or present feelings. Your ex-spouse may say negative things about you to your ex-in-laws or even your children. You can reach for some level of closeness, but never expect things to be the same.

Put in the Extra Effort

You may already be feeling stretched thin, but a good relationship with your ex-in-laws requires extra legwork. Be direct with them: “We’ve been family. I want to keep it that way. What can I do to make this work?” Your ex-in-laws may or may not respond to your overture. Be prepared for either response, and don’t take it personally.

Think of Your Children

Maybe your relationship with the in-laws was always fractious. It may be tempting to let things fall apart. Think of your children, and work towards a good relationship for their sake.

Avoid Negativity

Avoid saying anything negative about your ex-spouse or anyone else. Request your ex-in-laws to remain positive and avoid name-calling. Make sure this rule applies around your children. Is there some hostility? Consider having a therapist or other third-party involved to negotiate the relationship. Gently remind your ex-in-laws that everyone has a duty to the children.

Include Them

Maintaining a positive relationship with your ex-in-laws means involving them in your children’s lives. Invite them to help plan birthday parties, host holidays, and participate in family outings.

Be Patient

Mending a relationship takes time. You need time to process your divorce. Your ex-in-laws also need time to process. Give them time to heal, and don’t expect too much at first. Remain diligent and positive. You can have a relationship with those you used to call family.

Trial. In family court, it may be the most difficult thing a litigant can experience. The time, cost and emotion involved in litigating a case can be significant – not to mention the unpredictability of leaving your future in the hands of a stranger in a black robe.

The good news is that in Minnesota there are a number of alternatives available to those who are facing a divorce. In this post, I’ll outline the most common forms of alternative dispute resolution in a marital dissolution action.

Mediation. Bar far the most well-known ADR method involves mediation. Mediation involves a forum in which a neutral third party facilitates communication among parties, and their counsel, to promote settlement. Mediators may not impose their own judgment on the issues in dispute – unless the parties ask them to. In that situation, the process is typically referred to a “evaluative” mediation.

Arbitration. In an arbitration, the parties, and their lawyers, present their position on an issue before a neutral third party. That neutral follows with an opinion and/or order. By default, the arbitrator’s opinion is not binding upon the parties. If agreed by the parties in advance, however, the order of the arbitrator can be binding and enforceable – as though the arbitrator sits with the same power as as judge.

Mediation-Arbitration. A “Med-Arb” involves a hybrid of traditional mediation and arbitration. The parties initially mediate their disputed issues. If they reach an impasse, the arbitrator will make a decision.

Consensual Special Magistrate. The retention of a consensual special magistrate allow each party, and their lawyers, to present the matter as though the magistrate sits in the position of the judge. The matter is actually “tried” to the magistrate, and  his/her opinion is subject to appeal directly to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. You might think of a CSM as a “rental judge.”

Early Neutral Evaluation. In an early neutral evaluation, the lawyers and parties present the issues in dispute to a neutral evaluator (sometimes a team of evaluators). The process occurs rather early in the matter (before formal motions and/or discovery). Once all of the relevant facts and arguments have been made, the evaluator will offer his/her opinion about the strengths and weaknesses of each side, and the likely outcome in the event that a trial occurs. The parties, in reliance upon that opinion, begin mediating their dispute. About 80% of the time, a settlement is reached.