Most people feel they make better decisions for their own family than another person could. When people arrive at their own agreements, they tend to be more satisfied and more likely to abide by the terms of the decision. In a divorce or separation, though, it's often difficult for parties to sit down and make those decisions in a way that is comfortable and productive.
Minnesota offers a variety of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) options for family law cases, including mediation. Mediation involves sitting down with a neutral third party in order to try to reach a settlement. Mediators may be lawyers, or may be from other professions.
Working together with the mediator, the parties will identify their needs, frame the issues that need resolving, and come up with options to address those issues. A mediator will not make a decision for her clients, but will facilitate communication so that they can come up with their own. One advantage of this process is that the parties learn to negotiate fairly with one another. It then becomes easier for them to arrive at agreements on future issues, rather than return to court every time there is a disagreement. Another advantage is that the content of mediation sessions is confidential, unlike court, in which filed documents become public record and arguments are made in a public setting. Mediation may take place during a divorce, or to address issues that arise afterward.
Mediating family law matters works well in a wide variety of situations: dividing property, working out a parenting time schedule, and making decisions for children such as where they will go to school and what activities they will be involved in. However, mediation is not suitable in every circumstance. Where there is domestic violence, substance abuse, mental illness or a significant power imbalance between the parties, mediation may not be appropriate.
It's usually a good idea for parties to have their own attorneys with whom to consult before, during and after mediation; though lawyers are not required to attend mediation sessions, it is not uncommon. An attorney ensures that clients are aware of their legal rights and responsibilities, and can help make sure a mediation agreement complies with legal requirements. An experienced family law attorney is also a great resource for locating a skilled, reputable mediator.
Banas Family Law offers family mediation services. In addition to being a state-approved mediator, Lisa Banas has both a background in social work and years of experience in family law, offering her clients a variety of skills to assist them in successful negotiations.