Cortney E. Whitehouse, Bloch & Whitehouse, P.A., (952) 224-9977, 8120 Penn Avenue South, Suite 550, Bloomington, Minnesota 55431, www.blochandwhitehouse.com.
Mediation is a process by which a neutral person facilitates communication between parties in an effort to assist them in reaching an agreement in their case. While you may question how on Earth you will be able to agree on anything with your soon-to-be ex spouse, you would be surprised how many people are able to find some common ground during the divorce process with a little help.
There are several advantages to divorce mediation. First, mediation eliminates risk because the parties own the process and the outcome. Most of the time, both parties have some risk in submitting an issue to a court for decision. What may seem like a common sense decision to you, may not be so black and white under the law. And, parties can reach creative agreements in mediation that a judge may not have the authority to Order.
Second, mediation can substantially reduce the cost of a divorce. In general, it is substantially less expensive to share the cost of one mediator than to submit a dispute to the Court for resolution. And, while attorney involvement will be necessary to draft your agreement, your attorney fees should pale in comparison to the cost of litigation.
Finally, parties are less likely to involve the Courts in their disputes post-divorce if they reach a mediated agreement during the divorce process. Mediation can teach parties to communicate and resolve disputes despite the circumstances. When disputes arise relative to children or the like in the future, those skills often re-surface and enable parties to avoid major conflict. And, parties are less likely to have disputes about an agreement that they reached through mediation than one that was imposed on them by the Court.
Mediation can take place at the outset of a case, before anyone has been served with divorce papers or anything has been filed with the court. It can also take place after service but before filing. If successful, parties can often reach an agreement and get divorced without ever setting foot in a courtroom.
Mediation can also take place once a case has been filed with the Court. In fact, in cases where Early Neutral Evaluation is not available or selected by the parties, Courts will require parties to participate in mediation (except in cases involving domestic abuse).
Finally, many divorce decrees require parties to mediate a dispute prior to seeking court intervention post-divorce. The use of mediation in that instance often serves to avoid expensive, protracted litigation.