Knowing what to expect during the Minnesota divorce mediation process will allow you and your spouse to focus on what is important—reaching settlement.
Mediation usually takes place in the office of the mediator and the setting is more informal when compared to a court appearance. You may even wear comfortable clothing.
The mediator’s role is to work with you and your spouse in reaching a mutually agreeable settlement regarding: asset and debt distribution, financial support (including alimony or spousal maintenance, if applicable), and child support and custody agreements including parenting time and separate parenting guidelines. The mediator remains neutral throughout the process and does not act as an advocate for either party. However, if you or your spouse is taking an unreasonable or unrealistic position, the mediator will likely identify these positions and do some reality checking. The mediator will also help both of you to understand that there are no clear winners or losers in mediation, and that a settlement most often leaves both parties wonting in some way.
Unlike in the court room, mediation does not follow rules of evidence. Rather than producing several years’ worth of bank statements; you are only required to provide relevant documentation that details the current status of all marital accounts. If you have an interest in an asset that predates your marriage you will also have to provide documentation of your non-marital claim. It is not uncommon for parents to bring in examples of communication (emails and text message), social media posts, etc.
Mediation sessions typically begin with both parties (and their attorneys) meeting together with the mediator in one room. This ensures that all involved receive and understand the same information as the mediation process gets started. If you and your spouse are able to work together, in the same room, the mediation will continue in that manner. During the session, the mediator may determine that separate rooms may be beneficial to discuss difficult and/or emotionally charged issues – this is called caucusing and it allows you to communicate with the mediator candidly without increasing the conflict level of the situation. As a neutral party, the mediator can then share your concerns with your spouse and help the two of you reach an agreement.
Minnesota divorce mediation is not nearly as lengthy process as going to trial, but it may take multiple sessions to cover all of the issues that must be addressed to fully settle your divorce and custody arrangements. Mediation can be emotionally draining so it is a good idea to take the day off work, find a baby-sitter and make other arrangements so that you can fully focus on your case.