Almost all divorce litigants believe that mediation will be a complete waste of time. After all, they reason, if we could have talked out our problems, there would not be a court case. But in about 75 percent of these cases, the litigants resolve all of their disputes in just a few hours. In the remaining cases, the parties are usually at least able to narrow the issues for trial. For example, Husband and Wife might agree on alimony payments but disagree as to property distribution.
There are a number of variables. If the parties are very far apart (e.g. I get the property and you get the debts), mediation may not work. Or, if there are verified allegations of domestic violence, mediation may not be a good idea.
But the unique structure helps most family law mediations work. These events usually take place in an office building or some other rather casual environment. After each side makes a brief opening statement, they retire to separate rooms and wait. At that point, the mediator takes over. This person is usually a retired Crow Wing County judge or an unaffiliated Brainerd lawyer who practices family law.
The mediator conveys settlement offers and counteroffers between the two sides. At the end of the session, which is usually a full day, the parties either finalize settlement paperwork or prepare for the case to move forward.
Mediation’s three Cs are another reason that this process often works.
Mediation usually occurs early in the process, after the temporary hearing yet before discovery is in full swing. If the case settles during mediation, the Brainerd lawyers stop working on the case. Furthermore, it is much easier to prepare for a one-day mediation than a four or five-day trial.
The cost savings could be substantial. According to the Department of Justice, in 2017, successful mediation and arbitration eliminated:
- $15 million in legal bills,
- 14,000 days of attorney/staff preparation time, and
- 1,900 months of litigation.
These statistics are for all forms of alternative dispute resolution, and not just family law. So, the actual cost and time savings may vary.
Divorce does not just have a financial cost. There is an emotional cost as well. A PayPal transfer to a Brainerd lawyer does not take care of these expenses. Litigants pay these bills with things like sleepless nights, time away from friends and family, distraction at work, and anxiety.
Mediation reduces these costs as well. Sometimes, the emotional savings may eclipse the financial savings.
Courtroom showdowns are great in movies and TV. Occasionally, they are good in real life as well. Some people need the emotional closure that such events bring. In other cases, courtroom showdowns are cathartic.
But in most court trials, each side airs their dirty laundry for everyone to see. The environment is very counterproductive to civility between the parties. That’s especially important if the litigants have minor children.
If there are no children, Husband and Wife may simply go their separate ways. But if there are children, Husband and Wife need to work together. They cannot call a Brainerd lawyer for every petty dispute. They must work these things out for themselves. Mediation creates such a framework. Many parents reason that if they talked out their problems once, they can do it again.
A word of caution here. Do not get too carried away with the “civility” component of a divorce. Side agreements on things like visitation schedules or pickup locations are entirely unenforceable in family court. Always have a Brainerd lawyer get these agreements in writing. Otherwise, one party has no recourse if the other party reneges on the pact.
Many people have problems accepting authority, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. However, if they feel that the judge dictated terms from the bench, they may disobey court orders. That could mean expensive, time-consuming, and emotionally-wrenching motions to enforce.
There is evidence that mediation increases voluntary compliance. If litigants have a voice in the process, they are more likely to go along with the outcome, even if it is adverse. Just like mediation sows the seeds for civility between the parents, it also gives many people more respect for the divorce order.
Call Today To Speak With The Brainerd Lawyers at Carlson & Jones
Mediation does not always work, but it is almost always worth a try. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle cases in Crow Wing County and nearby jurisdictions.