Minneapolis Divorce Mediation

What do you look for in a divorce professional? There are many, many folks who have Minneapolis divorce mediation services, or Saint Paul divorce mediation services, for that matter. Many are attorneys who have realized that the grind of court litigation is tough on them and their clients. Some attorneys understand most folks aren’t willing to pay $3-5000 to retain an attorney. Most understand that these are not the “Kramer versus Kramer” days of 30 years ago, where there were plenty of Baby Boomers with kids, with lots of money and eager to defend their rights. times are lean for many family attorneys.

Many of the attorneys out there are not mediating because they want to, but because they have to. Fewer folks want full service court battles and attorneys; most want to get by as inexpensively as they can. Some attorneys offer Minnesota mediation services because they don’t have enough paying clients who want to fight it out in court and they have to mediate if they want to stay in business. Many of these think a law degree ensures one can mediate. But Minnesota divorce mediation is tough; it requires more than a law degree. You need a person with head smarts and logic; someone with the creativity to look at situations in new ways and can help couples get there.

You are best off with someone who understands emotion and conflict and has a good track record of helping people cooperate. You are also better off finding a mediator without a huge office and up to $100K of overhead expenses. There are folks like me who offer Minnesota family mediation services or Minnesota divorce mediation services by traveling close to where folks are. Some, like me, do that with no travel charges. I travel up to two hours away from Rochester or Bloomington. Why travel 50 miles to get mediation? Do it close to home! Why not Chaska family mediation or Rochester family mediation, or Mankato family mediation, too, not just Saint Paul family mediation or Minneapolis family mediation?

Get mediators who have a track record in getting folks to cooperate and who have most of their experience in actual mediation, not just law. Minnesota family mediation should be done by folks who don’t take sides for most of their living. Mediation from a caring professional works better!

Minnesota Divorce Mediation

Where do you go for a Minnesota divorce mediation? Most people think of attorneys. Many attorneys who would fight it out in court are now advertising themselves as mediators. I’m certainly not saying they aren’t mediators. They are qualified neutrals just as I am. But that is where the similarity ends.

In law school, attorneys are quite rightly taught to be zealous advocates for their clients. They are trained for long years, are taught how to make a good logical argument before a judge: an airtight case. But for attorneys, building up their client’s case is often at the expense of the other parent’s or spouse’s case. In many cases, it is easier to rip down your court opponent than to make a strong case for your own client. So after years of law school and practice of being strongly on the side of their clients, attorneys need to radically switch gears if they become a mediator. Mediators deal with logic AND emotion in session. They need to be neutral and to know how to deal comfortably and expertly with strong emotion.

Many attorneys can learn to be great mediators. But shifting from advocate to being neutral is like learning to speak another language. After years of speaking Arabic or French one does not easily pick up Hebrew or Greek. After years of being trained in logic, many attorneys don’t have the emotional training and skills to handle strong emotions  in mediations very well. They often run mediation sessions like negotiations based on logical winners and losers rather than seeing new possibilities. They may think black and white when shades of grey are needed, or even black here and white there.

After decades of experience, I’ve learned how to be an advocate and stay neutral. That’s what I was taught. That’s what I have learned in churches in hospitals, in church fights and ICUs. I’ve learned how to handle emotions– my own and other people’s- when they are helpful, and when they’re not.

For law, go to a lawyer. But for mediation, for working out a comfortable solution, first why not try a mediator who has been neutral his whole life, and who has been working with emotions his whole career? I feel strongly about helping folks. That’s why I travel throughout much of my state with my Minnesota mediation services. That’s why many attorneys offering St Paul mediation services, Minneapolis mediation services and outstate Minnesota mediation services don’t do a well as I do.

When mediators deal only with facts, instead of understanding the emotions behind the argument, it doesn’t work well. I like to think of my work as Minnesota family mediation because I help preserve the relationships between parents and kids. I teach skills too, so folks can continue to work together for their children and families, even after a divorce or separation. Mediation works!

Do I Stay or Do I Go–Workshop for Professionals

Tuesday, May 26, 2015
6:30-8:00 pm
Southdale Library (map)

Free Networking Event

Do you work with couples? Do you feel stuck when one partner wants to work on the relationship and the other is less than committed? Or when a partner says that they want to end the relationship, but they struggle to let go?

Spend an evening meeting new colleagues and learning about Discernment Counseling, a new tool to help couples move past these challenging spots. Whether you’re interested in learning about how to become trained yourself, or in learning when and how to refer couples for this service, you’ll have a chance to get your questions answered and connect with resources.

To reserve a spot, register here.

Make sure to bring your business cards. You’ll have a chance to briefly introduce yourself to the group – networking without the work!

Hosted by Voda Counseling, Healing Hope Counseling and Bickford Mediation.


Mediation and Being Stuck

It is very common for people to come to mediation “locked-in” to their position. There are good reasons for this. Some people are like like pit bulls: they clamp down on a position without the slightest change, through thick and thin. This is a valuable trait if 1) you know you are absolutely 100 % right and 2) circumstances do not change. The only problem is, about 99% of the time both people are at fault, and very few situations remain unchanging.

In churches, this often takes the form  “A worked for this church during the “golden age” of the church,” In the “golden age” membership was huge, there were hundreds of kids in Sunday School and money was always there when you asked for it and frequently offered unasked. But the “golden age” usually took place when nearly every American child was baptized, most people attended church, and the American economy was strong. People in churches might fight over Sunday school style when the right answer for this place and time might be no Sunday school at all, but a different way of giving children a religious education! In my own state, churches were built every 6 miles or so out in the Minnesota countryside. We can mourn the closure of most of these, but the fact is, they were built when most people drove horses to church and every 160 acres was a large family. In a time when rural folks are scarce and farms are 5000 acres or more, when people have cars and can easily drive 60 miles in an hour, church buildings don’t need to be so close most rural church buildings aren’t needed.  Circumstances change.

With couples, this can take the form ” When we were together she was like this and she always will be.” This could be true, she will always be the same in some ways. But many other ways she might be very different. It’s easier to lock people in time than it is to realize people can change and grow. It’s easier to think the other person was all wrong than to admit that at least part of the marriage difficulties were self made, or simply the bad combination of two good people. People could be like chocolate  and garlic. Both are great in certain foods but combine them? Yech!

Mediation is about new possibilities. Without the possibility of change, then one is doomed to relive the same conflict over and over. Sadly that is what happens to many folks in churches or post divorce. Yet, if one admits to the possibility of change then mediation can succeed. Good mediators can take people from “no’ to “maybe” and when they do, new possibilities emerge!


Why You Should Consider Mediators Who Are Not Attorneys.

Why You Should Consider Mediators Who Are Not Attorneys

Why You Should Consider Mediators Who Are Not Attorneys

By Glen Bickford, Minnesota Qualified Neutral and Trained Mediator

Most Mediators in Minnesota are attorneys. Only a small percentage of mediators are what the attorneys call “Non-Attorneys.”

Mediation, many attorneys believe, should be something practiced by attorneys alone, as only attorneys know the law.  Many attorneys in Minnesota have tried, and continue to try to lock out non-attorney mediators. The argument goes like this. Mediated settlements are legal documents. Only attorneys know the law so only attorneys should be mediators.

In some ways this argument makes perfect sense. It’s great to have a mediator who knows laws. But are attorneys the only people who know laws? No, we all know many laws, or else we’d have chaos in our cities and on our roads. We know we shouldn’t hit people without a good reason (and most often, even if we do). As drivers we shouldn’t speed or run stop signs.

Likewise, non-attorney mediators should know enough law to help make an agreement. A skilled “non-attorney” professional mediator can help a couple reach an agreement on parenting time without needing to understand patent law. When agreements are reached, if a licensed attorney looks over the agreement and writes it up for court, no laws are going to be broken.

Another idea is hidden in what many lawyers say. When they say only lawyers should be mediators, they are saying the most important part of mediation is knowing law. But is it? Disputes are legal and logical, but they are also emotional. Anyone who has ever seen two people argue knows that.

To be a good mediator, a mediator should understand emotion, too. Unless a mediator can get people to settle down, people will never understand each other, understand positions, or listen to reason. In arguments people often get into “fight or flight” mode. They get angry, afraid or even shut down completely. When people are upset or worse yet shut down, no amount of logic or knowledge of law is going to help.

Another big part of being a good mediator is being neutral. This goes against what attorneys are taught in law school. Attorneys are taught to be zealous advocates for one side: their side. It is hard work for lawyers to undo their training and be neutral with both sides.

So if lawyers aren’t always the best mediators, what’s the alternative? Someone who is trained to be neutral, someone who has years of practice being neutral. Someone who is skilled in dealing with emotions, skilled in getting both sides to trust them. Choose your mediator carefully. Psychologists, counselors and pastors can be good mediators, only if they know enough law not to make stupid mistakes.  Attorneys can make good mediators only if they can be neutral and are comfortable dealing with emotions.

Above all, find a mediator who understands that mediation is more than just win/lose.

Mediation is helping people find win/win and make an agreement everyone can live with.

More Barriers to Mediation: Why You Might Choose a “Non-Attorney” to be Your Mediator

More Barriers to Mediation: Why You Might Choose a “Non-Attorney” to be Your Mediator

More Barriers to Mediation: Why You Might Choose a “Non-Attorney” to be Your Mediator

By Glen Bickford, Minnesota Qualified Neutral and Trained Mediator

In MN, the vast majority of mediators are attorneys. But are attorneys always the best mediators? I would argue no, though for certain cases they are a must. And before signing a final agreement, one is wise to run a settlement past a trusted attorney for her or his opinion.

Attorneys are taught logic in law school, and judges rule mainly on the facts of a case. But mediation, deciding what is best between two or more people, is often about understanding emotions. The emotions between two people in a dispute are often complex. Mediators should understand how best to use that emotion to help, not hinder, settlement. The best, most persuasive attorneys are those who not only make an airtight logical argument for holding a particular position, but can sell why it is important to hold that position. This may involve using not only logic, but emotion, using language the person you are trying to persuade can appreciate.

Even if the people involved are not yelling at each other, badmouthing or showing anger, there are usually good emotional reasons behind the positions we hold in an argument. We may not even realize how emotional we are, but if we continue to disagree, emotions show up sooner or later. For example, one person feels put down, disrespected, or feels he/she is not being listened to.

With most people, the form of the argument you make is as important as the logic of the argument itself. Or put it another way, most people only trust the logic of an argument when they have learned to trust the person making it. Attorneys are great at making arguments, but often not nearly so good at inspiring the trust of both parties at the same time.  This trust factor in mediation is not strictly logical, as arguments should stand or fall on their own merits. But it is most often true.

When interacting with people who are being emotional (and all people are somewhat emotional), it may be wise to consider a person who understands emotions. An attorney who is not skilled in emotions may not be the best choice of mediator, especially if the argument is both emotional and logical. A mediator should have equal parts of head and heart skills, able to use either as the situation requires.

Why You Should Go to Court When You Get Divorced

Why You Should Go to Court When You Get Divorced


Glen Bickford, Minnesota Qualified Neutral and Divorce Mediator

Many people are relieved to get an attorney. It means they don’t have to do as much work. After all, an attorney works out the agreement for you. She or he fights for your rights so you get what’s yours. If you have an attorney and an agreement, you don’t even have to appear in court; an attorney can do it for you. Sounds attractive, doesn’t it?

But not everything that sounds good really IS good. The other day, I spoke with a man after his divorce. David said even now, years later, he didn’t understand half of the things in his divorce papers. When he was getting divorced he agreed to a lot of things to get things settled in a hurry. Now, the only way to undo things is to spend a lot of money and go back to court.

Mediation is different. Mediation means you do things yourself. You have to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Now that sounds like a lot of work, but a mediator can help you get there. A mediator asks questions like “Have you thought about this?” and “Why is that important?” A good divorce mediator can help bring out creativity and wisdom you didn’t know you had. When you go to court (you don’t have an attorney to go for you) you’ll understand what the judge wants and why. You’ll have the satisfaction of doing it your way!

You see, when a judge rules on a divorce she or he has to follow the law closely. But when a couple has an agreement they bring there are a lot more things that the judge can allow. So working out an agreement yourselves means you understand what you want, what the agreement means, and most often the judges sign what you want into an order with few if any changes.  Mediation means you understand what you want and why you want it. And most often the judges agree, or give you free advice that works even better! That’s why more and more couples are deciding to mediate first, before they go to an attorney. With a good divorce mediator, many people can do it themselves.


Why Don’t More People Try Mediation?


Why Don’t More People Try Mediation?

By Glen Bickford, Minnesota Qualified Neutral and Mediator

Why don’t more people try mediation? Mediation has been shown to be a cost effective, time effective means of settling disputes. Results are long lasting and parties have a greater “buy-in”-people follow through with their own settlement more than when judges have the final say. Lawyer-led settlement conferences and court battles still rule. Yet the trend toward mediation, like many other trends, is real. If you look at the east and west coasts of the United States, mediation is growing rapidly. It’s growing, but it’s not reached full acceptance by the public, especially in the Midwest. What’s the problem?

Well, I’ve seen many attorneys who can help a mediation but attorneys can make more money by litigation than by cooperation. Attorneys often complain about going to court, but it‘s their “bread and butter,” earning them 10, even 100 times the money that mediation does. This means mediation means more money for ads to get more clients because most cases are solved more quickly than attorneys sparring back and forth. In one case I had, the attorneys stepped out in the hall to argue while the parties waited with me in the conference room. After a while the couple tried to work out a solution with me, and after a short time they did, with little difficulty.

Part of the problem is how we look at conflict. Television dramas portray exciting court battles but have you ever seen a mediation on television? Television, movies and other media encourage competition and win/lose. When was the last time you saw a drama which dealt with cooperation? Boys in our country are often taught to struggle with others, not cooperate. While this builds resolve and healthy bodies, it doesn’t build patience and tolerance, qualities we need as adults for great relationships.

Even when we call someone an “opponent” in a conflict rather than “partner” implies a face-off, a win/lose scenario. Mediation is often seen as something people are forced into rather than something you choose first. News and political programs typically bring on guests to “fight” rather than talk about common ground or even agree to disagree. Fighting boosts ratings and brings in more money.

What can be done to make mediation the usual way for solving disputes? We need to shift toward greater cooperation. We can teach people mediation works and usually works better than fighting. We can teach mediation skills in our elementary and high schools. We can encourage people to try mediation before attorneys. Attorneys are great with complicated property settlements and laws but may not know how to deal with emotions.

We need to train mediators who are skilled in mental illness, grief issues and motivation. Life is complicated: shades of grey and several unique points of view abound. We can look beyond black and white. When I mediate I’ve learned there are almost always alternatives; those alternatives often make the difference between settling and not.

Divorce, Emotions and Mediation


Divorce, Emotions and Mediation

Glen Bickford, Qualified Neutral and Mediator

Separation is a tough time. Emotions are generally high for both people. Some couples try to stay in the same household in different parts of the house or if there are kids, by “nesting” i.e. getting an apartment with parents moving back and forth while the kids stayed put in the former home place. Now nesting is a great idea in theory, but in practice, it’s a mess; those emotions get in the way. To do nesting properly, even for a short period of time, you need ground rules. Otherwise, who does the housework and dishes? Often one person gets stuck with most of it. But when emotions are strong and communication is difficult, it’s hard to agree on a set of rules. Mediation can help by having another person there and by identifying the root problems, the reason behind the standoff. Rules can be agreed upon and be comfortable for both people

Long term, most people separate into two households and no longer “nest.” Emotionally, it is easier. The source of your pain and frustration, along with their possessions, are no longer in front of you, reminding you of things you’re trying hard to forget.

Mediation also helps emotions after the split. Mediation with someone you want to get away from is not easy but it’s better than court for a couple of reasons. First, those emotions don’t get stirred up when they see what the other person’s attorney  is saying about them. While mediators can’t stop outbursts, outbursts if they happen at all, can be controlled. Second, when you mediate you, not lawyers and judges, are in control. The more control each person has over the settlement the easier it is to keep their emotions in check.

When is the best time to mediate emotionally? For complete settlements, the best time to mediate is often week or two (up to a couple months) after the separation or decision to separate. Too soon, and those emotions get in the way again. One couple I worked with had been separated for just 2 days. One of the couple was still in shock. Trying her best, she was unable to come to any decisions on most things. After time and therapy, she was able to move on and settlement was reached without too much difficulty.

Mediation can mean less hurt and a shorter recovery from the split, it’s cheaper, and old hurts can stop hurting. Emotionally, courts are win/lose, or even lose/lose. But mediation is win/win!