Making the Best Use of Family Mediation

Most family mediation is really divorce mediation or separation mediation, making two household out of one. In Minnesota this is often done by attorneys, but though attorneys can be very helpful, it is often not necessary to retain or hire an attorney for most divorces or separations. Here’s how to do it.

First, find a good mediator- a family mediator. Not all mediators are the same. Some are really good at property division. Attorney mediators are good at details, but often not so good at emotionally charged situations. What many attorneys call mediation is often more negotiation, with pushing to get results. Counselor or pastor mediators (No, not all mediators are attorneys!) are wonderful for interpersonal conflict and working out creative child custody issues but may not have experience with S Corps or LLCs. I do have experience with such things and am happy to refer people to appraisers and accountants: they are generally less expensive than getting an attorney to help. I can get results with most folks.

Second, figure out how and where you cooperate and agree before you come in to see me. Bring a list of your issues and agreements to me, for example, and it can take hours less, saving you hundred of dollars.

Third, understand that mediation means give and take. You will not get everything you want. If you are locked into a position, and can’t think of any other way, you won’t do well in mediation, but you won’t get everything you want in court, either. With mediation you can ponder and try different options. In court you usually have to accept what the judge rules.

Fourth, it is best if you have children to focus on what’s best for them. The more you can cooperate, the better off your children will be. And so will you. Think before you speak and act. Words and actions in divorce can seldom be taken back. The single best indicator of how well kids will do (even grown ones) post-divorce is how well you two can cooperate, even though you may not agree on everything.

Custody mediation, divorce mediation and family mediation are seldom easy. But they are most often the best way to avoid unneeded expense, pain and anguish. Mediation can help you co-parent after separation in a way court battles can’t.

 

 

An Easier Divorce

I recently attended a Minnesota AFCC conference. AFCC is an organization devoted to legal professionals. The speaker, a law prof from Canada, spoke of how broken the Canadian and US court systems are with respect to family law (divorce and custody matters). She believed that it was necessary for family law to be taken out of the court system or remade entirely within the system. Not long ago, a bill was introduced in the Minnesota state legislature that would create a separate system for divorce and family matters.

When it comes to divorce mediation or family mediation, I agree. Minnesota divorce mediation should not be handled by the courts. With a little help, parents can handle their separations better than the court system. And judges would be better off too, because most judges hate deciding family law cases.

In many or even most family law cases, mediation without attorneys can accomplish agreement faster and cheaper than two opposing attorneys arguing back and forth on their own or worse yet, going to court.

At very least, attorneys should offer unbundled services: writing up a divorce agreement, appearing in court or writing letters. It is helpful to have agreements in divorce or custody mediations written up by an attorney so judges will understand what the couple wants. When I help a couple work out an agreement, I can refer the couple to some of the few attorneys who offer such services. Divorce mediation or custody mediation done in this way can be half (or even less) the cost of a traditional attorney aided divorce. There will always be cases (abuse, mental illness, extreme substance abuse) where attorneys will be necessary for divorce, but mediation without attorneys can work for the rest. An easy divorce or at lest an easier divorce. enough said.

Divorce Mediation Made Simple

Divorce Mediation can be as difficult as anything you can imagine, but Divorce Mediation can be easier than anything you ever expected. It depends, to a large extent, on the Divorce Mediator you choose and the attorney you choose (if you have one- you don’t always need to). Ideally, if you and your ex are fighting over child custody it makes sense to find a mediator who can understand and work with the strong emotions that such a conflict generates. for such matters, it is often better to find a “non-attorney” mediator, as attorneys are great with logic and adversarial conflicts but usually not as good at emotional ones.

If you feel the need for your own attorney, understand that it often makes the divorce process longer and much more expensive, even if your attorney wants to be collaborative (many aren’t). Many attorneys resist mediation, or believe mediation can be used only in very rare circumstances. To be fair, from an attorney’s background, with an attorney’s skill set, they are correct. But if you choose a “non-attorney” who understand emotions in child custody mediation, a successful agreement can not only be possible, but probable. A mediation that would end in stand-off or trial might well be settled by the right mediator ( a “non attorney”) and often without needing to retain an attorney yourself. But if you play the attorney card too soon, or find an attorney who is overly zealous, problems can develop and big problems can get bigger. I have played “clean-up” for many situations where attorneys had fought long and hard. Whether they reached agreement or no, such situations left a host of bad feelings on both sides, and an inability to co-parent cooperatively. but it doesn’t have to be. Divorce mediation can be simple, often as simple as one or two visits with the right family mediator.

Some folks in my mediation sessions do so well they wonder how they ever could have done it another way.