In Minnesota, it is not uncommon for couples to file for divorce without legal representation. As they move through the Minnesota courts system parties complete and file the necessary paperwork that documents the terms of their divorce settlement. For example, couples must divide assets and debts, and parents must determine custody and other parenting agreements.

Mediation is a valuable asset for couples navigating the divorce process, especially if they are unrepresented by attorneys. In the courts this is referred to as “pro se” representation which literally means “on one’s own behalf.” Mediation is a process that takes place outside the courtroom and allows parties to construct their own settlement agreement. A divorce mediatoris not a decision maker; rather, he or she meets with the parties and facilitates a candid conversation about the facts of their caseand helps the parties craft theirown agreement. When conflict arises, the mediator brings a neutral perspective and helps identify possible alternative solutions.

With mediation, it is possible to reach a complete settlement without retaining attorneys and minimize or eliminate court appearances. Some parties engage attorneys to review the final agreement before filing and some retain attorneys during the mediation process. No matter where they are in the process, parties never lose the option to work with attorneys and/or turn the decision making over to the courts.If only a partial settlement is possible, that agreement can be submitted to the court and unresolved issues addressed in trial.

Each case is unique. Whether parties retain divorce attorneys or handle the case themselves, mediation allows parties to save money and time; and more importantly, to control their own outcomes and customize an agreement that meets their specific needs and requirements.