Strategic Tips for a Successful Divorce Mediation

Divorce, child custody disputes, and other family law matters are profoundly difficult situations that cause emotional and financial turmoil. Even if the two parties are working together to settle their differences, conflict can arise. Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution in which a neutral third party helps the parties negotiate and, hopefully, reach a settlement.

Minnesota family law requires spouses in a divorce case to participate in mediation or another form of Alternative Dispute Resolution before they go to court. If you are involved in a divorce in Minnesota, a skilled mediator and a divorce mediation attorney can help you make the most of the process. The following are five tips for a successful divorce mediation.

1. Choose the Right Mediator for You

Minnesota law requires practicing mediators to complete a training certification program approved by the Minnesota Supreme Court and be approved to practice. Divorce mediators receive specialized training that covers Minnesota family law and family court procedures.

Although mediators are not required to be attorneys, many are. It can be very helpful to have an attorney who is experienced in resolving family law matters as a mediator. An experienced divorce attorney will have an understanding of the law that applies to your dispute and an awareness of issues that you may not have considered. However, lawyers cannot provide legal advice in their role as mediators, since they are a neutral facilitator focused on helping both parties reach a joint settlement agreement.

When selecting the right mediator for your case, remember it is important you find someone who can work well with you and your unique situation. If you and your spouse have a substantial amount of assets tied up in complicated investments, a trained mediator who handles high-asset divorces might be best.

2. Be Prepared with Information

You need to have as much information as possible when you go into mediation. Divorce attorneys experienced in mediating cases will provide you with a divorce mediation checklist. Items on this checklist, whether individually or jointly titled, include, but are not limited to the following:

  • An inventory of all assets that you and your spouse own, including both marital property and separate property
  • Estimated market values for major assets like houses and cars, or copies of appraisals if available
  • A list of all financial accounts with their balances, including bank accounts, savings accounts, retirement plans, and brokerage accounts
  • A list of your debts and the outstanding balances, such as mortgages, credit cards, and student loans
  • Documents showing your income, such as pay stubs or W-2 forms
  • A list of routine expenses, including debt payments, utilities, childcare, groceries, and healthcare

3. Know Your Priorities, Interests, and Goals

In a divorce trial, a judge will make decisions for you. A mediator does not have that authority to do so. Their goal is to help you and your spouse identify opportunities to reach agreements, sometimes involving compromise, on important issues.

Since successful mediation will address property division, child support, child custody, and spousal maintenance, it is important you know your goals to achieve the best possible outcome for you and your family. Here are a few questions to consider before mediation:

  • What do you want your life to look like after the divorce?
  • What do you need to have once the divorce is over?
  • What do your children need from each of you to be well adjusted after the divorce?

Imagine what a difference it can make when considering these factors before a mediation appointment. When couples make a mutually informed decision about how to move forward, it creates a more positive divorce experience.

4. Approach Divorce Mediation with an Open Mind

You likely have strong emotions towards your spouse — anger, heartbreak, broken trust, sadness, etc. — but mediation presents a unique opportunity for a healthy divorce. In most cases where alternative dispute resolution is used, the parties can reach an agreement and settle the case without ongoing conflict and stress. Your mediator will provide you with the tools and guidance to keep your goals in perspective. However, if either spouse refuses to compromise, the divorce process becomes extended and costly.

5. Be an Active Participant

When you arrive at your mediation appointments, it is time to put all of your preparation into action. Your mediator will help you articulate your wants and needs, but ultimately it is up to you to be bold and ask for what you want, be reasonable and compromise on what you do not need, and listen to each person to make the most of your time. If you have children, know that how you manage conflict makes a difference for them.

Hopefully, you will leave their office with a settlement agreement, a transformed relationship with your soon-to-be-former-spouse, and the beginning of your future.

Divorce Mediation Services in St. Paul Minnesota

Louise Livesay is a family lawyer who practices in the Twin Cities area. She has helped families resolve disputes out of court for more than twenty years. She is committed to learning what is important to her clients, understanding how her client’s dynamics may show up in mediation, assisting her clients in transforming their relationships to living in two homes, and reaching mutually agreeable resolutions. If you have questions about collaborative law, divorce mediation, or another family law issue, please contact us today online or at (651) 964-3887.