Clients often come to us with a desire to keep things out of court due to a belief that this is the only way to resolve things amicably. Many have the perception that, by working with an attorney, they are entering into a drawn-out argument, destined to have a judge decide their future.
This, however, is rarely the case. Instead, a divorce will be as amicable and cooperative as you, your attorney, and the other parties involved make it. Protecting your interests, family and financial, should be the most important to your attorney. Your attorney’s role is to help advise of your legal options while solving problems and addressing issues in as orderly a fashion as possible.
One of the best ways this is accomplished is through alternative dispute resolution (“ADR” for short). ADR is an opportunity for the parties to find successful settlements tailored to their case, often saving time and money. ADR is not just preferred by parties but also required by the courts, except in limited circumstances, like where one party does not feel safe a conversation due to domestic abuse or there are other significant concerns that need to be addressed immediately.
Most people go to ADR within the first 60-90 days of their matter. Mediation or financial and social early neutral evaluation are the most common types of ADR in Minnesota. You and your attorney will select which option is best for your case. These discussions are also confidential and cannot be disclosed to the Court at any time. This ensures that the parties are free to consider options that they would sometimes not consider if they had to argue for a single outcome to a judge.
Mediation is a settlement conversation guided by a qualified, neutral professional to gather information and discuss settlement options. This person is either a family law attorney of a non-attorney professional, such as a mental health provider, that works with families going through divorce and custody issues regularly.
Early neutral evaluation is a program designed specifically in Minnesota, focusing on either financial issues or the social issues of custody and parenting time. This process is like mediation but is designed specifically to get evaluative feedback from the neutral professional on settlement options and, if helpful, their professional opinion on how a court might decide a contested issue.
Regardless of the ADR path you choose, these processes are opportunities for you, your attorney, and the other party to meet with a neutral professional to explore a variety of options to resolve your case. The more orderly and prepared you are for these conversations, the higher the likelihood that you will be able to resolve your disagreements without the time and expense of court.