Family law mediation in Minnesota is defined as a process in which an impartial third party facilitates an agreement between parties in their dissolution proceeding. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), which in general is a non-binding process that is totally confidential unless the parties otherwise consent. Woodbury divorce mediator Jeff Arrigoni is a trained ADR/Neutral Mediator who provides knowledgeable and effective advice and representation throughout the mediation or other ADR process.

Almost all civil cases are subject to ADR according to the Minnesota General Rules of Practice for the District Courts Rule 114. And specifically, under Rule 310.01 of the Rules of Family Court Procedure, all family law matters in district court are subject to the ADR process set forth in Rule 114, except for actions involving the Domestic Abuse Act, contempt actions, or other actions when a public agency is responsible for enforcement of maintenance, support, or parentage actions.

In addition, the court does not require parties to participate in any mediation process where one of the parties claims to be a victim of domestic abuse by the other party, or a court determines that there is probable cause that one of the parties or a child of the parties has been physically abused or threatened with physical abuse by a party.

The court may also order ADR or mediation under Rule 114 in post-decree matters as well. The present litigation system has evolved where mediation and ADR are highly recommended and required except under very limited circumstances.

Early Neutral Evaluation and Other Types of Rule 114 ADR

Rule 114 defines the ADR process and sets forth numerous different types of ADR, including arbitration, the use of a Consensual Special Magistrate, or Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE). In ENE, a trained neutral evaluator meets with the parties and their attorneys and gives an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the case after reviewing the facts and information. In many courts the judges strongly encourage the early involvement of a neutral in resolving or narrowing the issues in a case. In deciding what type of ADR is best, it is important to consult with a divorce lawyer who is familiar with the various alternatives which can vary from county to county. Jeff is trained in Social Early Neutral Evaluation(SENE) and Financial Early Evaluation(FENE) involving all financial issues in a Divorce.

In this process parties present their facts and information to the Evaluator who then provides input and Recommendations on how the Evaluator believes the court will likely resolve the issue,which can be a starting point for further mediation or negotiations. Jeff has served as the Evaluator in both Custody and Financial issues and has helped parties successfully settle their disputes in numerous cases. Jeff is on the Roster for FENE and SENE evaluations in Washington County, Ramsey County, Scott County, and Carver County District Courts. He has also been selected to be an Evaluator in Chisago, Isanti, Pine, and Kanabec County District Courts and an SENE Evalutor in Anoka County.

Selecting a Mediator or Neutral Evaluator for Your ADR Process

The selection of an appropriate mediator, Rule 114 neutral or ENE evaluator is very important to the likelihood of success in making progress in this process. The mediation training required to be a Rule 114 neutral or mediator is not extensive and does not require extensive knowledge of present Minnesota law or Minnesota family law or require extensive experience. It is therefore crucial to have the assistance of an experienced family law attorney to be involved in the selection process when deciding on the ADR process to use and in selecting a qualified facilitator.

There is a wide range of costs and fees that are charged depending upon the person and the process selected, which should be considered, but only as one factor in the decision-making process; the experience, knowledge and abilities of the mediator or Rule 114 neutral is critical to making successful progress in resolving or narrowing issues. If the parties are unable to agree on a neutral or mediator, the court may select one for them.

Important Points to Consider Before Starting Mediation or Early Neutral Evaluation

In general it is most beneficial before proceeding with a mediator or neutral evaluator that both parties are confident that they have all the necessary financial information concerning both parties’ income, assets, and debts, and that they have had an opportunity to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their case with a family law lawyer.

Although the ADR process is confidential, decisions that are made in the process often times can be difficult to overcome in attempting to finalize a settlement. It is therefore essential that an experienced family law attorney be consulted before a party proceeds with mediation or another ADR process. A Rule 114 neutral or mediator, in general, cannot give an unrepresented party legal advice and should not be relied upon in attempting to reach a settlement in the ADR or mediation process.

Generally speaking, it is highly recommended that a party consult with and retain a divorce or family law attorney prior to proceeding with mediation or participating in any ADR process. Fair and equitable settlements cannot be reached without a party understanding their legal rights and the strengths and weaknesses of their case prior to entering into negotiations to resolve a divorce and all related issues.

If a party proceeds to mediation without discussing their case with a divorce lawyer, they may reach agreements that are unfair, contrary to law, that limit their ability to be self-sufficient, or impact them in other ways that they do not understand under Minnesota law. A trial court judge also must ultimately decide whether to approve the terms of a settlement, and there is a much higher likelihood the settlement will be approved by the Court if the Judge is aware that both parties were represented by counsel and understood their legal rights at the time the settlement was reached.

Woodbury and St. Paul Divorce Mediation Lawyer

It is highly recommended that the attorneys be involved in the mediation or ADR process to ensure their client’s rights are protected and a fair and equitable settlement is reached and that both parties have entered into the agreement knowing their rights.

This in turn will lead to a higher likelihood that the agreement will ultimately be reduced to a final binding settlement that will be voluntarily implemented by the parties without the need for future court enforcement. For divorce mediation in Woodbury or anywhere throughout the greater St. Paul area, call Jeff Arrigoni at (651) 738-1400 for advice and representation from a trained mediator experienced in all types of Minnesota family law mediation and ADR.