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How can I be sure that my mediated settlement meets my needs?

Just because divorce is a legal proceeding does not mean that you have to duke it out in court. There are distinct advantages to trying to resolve the issues related to your divorce outside of litigation. For one, litigation is expensive. Not only is it expensive but you are also giving a stranger the authority to make decisions that will affect your life not only now, but for years to come. By resolving your divorce outside of the courtroom you have the ability to ensure that your and your family’s needs are met. There are a number of processes availability to divorcing Minnesotans that do not involve litigation. The question is: which one is right for you?

If you and your spouse are largely in agreement about how you would like the various issues to be resolved, collaborative divorce may be a good fit. This process is client-driven and provides the parties with the opportunity to work with a number of professions in order to ensure that their goals are reached. When there is agreement, communication flourishes and emotional tension is more easily kept at bay. In turn, costly litigation can often be avoided. It is important to remember that engaging in the collaborative process does not mean you give up your right to litigation if things do not go according to plan. If issues arise during the process that cannot otherwise be resolved, these issues can still be brought before the court if need be.

Collaborative divorce is not the best fit for everyone, however. While Minnesota courts offer a wide array of dispute resolution programs, such as early neutral evaluation (ENE) and moderated settlement conferences, these programs and services only become available once the court becomes involved in the case. Relief can be found outside of the court through the implementation of mediation.

Utilization of a mediator is another means of working through a divorce without incurring the expense and headache associated with litigation. Mediators are neutral third parties whose goal is to help navigate the couple through their discussion of the various issues arising out of their divorce. This process can be used to tackle the entire divorce or to tie up loose ends as negotiations are coming to a close. Implementation of mediation or some other form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is not only cost-effective but also expected by many Minnesota judges. As such, in most cases family law experts recommend the use of mediation at the forefront of the case so as to help the parties reach a speedy resolution of their divorce.

It is important, however, that you do not rush blindly into mediation (or any other form of ADR for that matter). You should choose your mediator with care, looking to their experience and track record in order to determine whether or not they would be a good fit. Mediation may last a few hours or even a few sessions. Regardless as to the amount of time take to reach a resolution, you should never feel pressured to enter into a legally binding agreement. In fact, experts recommend taking some time to look over any paperwork drafted before putting pen to paper. It’s also a good idea to work through the document with your own lawyer. Getting a second opinion from an experienced attorney can ensure you that your interests are covered. The second set of eyes also helps reduce the chance of human error. Consulting with a family law attorney can help to ensure that there are no flaws in the settlement that will force you to go to court later in order to get things corrected. Mediation can be an emotionally draining process so you want to be sure that you are entering into an agreement for the right reasons and not simply to make the process stop.

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