Burnsville, MN Family Law Attorney, Merlyn Meinerts, talks about specific paths clients can take in the divorce process.
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A divorce can really take one of two directions, one where the parties work together to come to the solutions themselves and literally fill in the blanks of the divorce decree with the assistance of counsel along the way. Or alternatively, giving up on that process and asking a judge, someone in a black robe sitting at a bench hearing evidence making decisions for them of lifelong consequence.
I’m always quick to remind people that the more you can control your own destiny the more certainty there is, the less expense there is, and certainly, the less emotional wear and tear would then result from that type of process.
Alternative dispute resolution under Minnesota law, Rule 114 in particular, can take many different forms mediation being one of them where a third party works as a neutral third party facilitator. Their job is to hear information from both parties to understand the positions and the issues that are in place and work through options that may exist for resolving that particular case. Mediation can be and is a very effective way of resolving the case.
In addition to mediation, another form of ADR is early neutral evaluation where the evaluator early in the process working as a neutral hears information from the parties but then is equipped by court order to give an evaluative perspective as to what the case looks like.
In cases involving social early evaluation that leads to questions about custody and parenting time and after both parties give their perspectives the evaluator provides insight as to what options may exist and what a likely outcome may look like.
And then similarly, financial early neutral evaluation or FNE considers things like child support, spousal maintenance, and the division of property.
In Dakota County and other parts of the state there’s also a movement toward working with what are called moderated settlement conferences, which is another form of alternative dispute resolution. A moderated settlement conference is practically on the eve of trial where the parties with their lawyers show up at the courtroom with a judge assigned to the case being available. The moderator then works with the parties to see through on last-ditch effort whether or not the case can be settled. That’s also a very effective way of alternative dispute resolution.
Well, I think the word collaborate simply means you’re going to work together. You’re going to collaborate on how you’re going to resolve your case, you’re going to collaborate on exchanging information in a timely manner, and you collaborate on various ways of resolving your case working together. So when I say collaborate I mean simply working together and committing one selves to being as productive as possible through working together to finding a solution to what can otherwise be a pretty complex problem.
There are things through the divorce process that people can do on their own to make the process much more streamlined and cost effective. One of them being just information gathering making sure the attorney has all the financial documents in order, tax return, retirement account statements, bank account statements, credit card statements. The more you have to pay a lawyer or his staff to chase after those types of documents the more expensive it can become.
But by far the most important thing that one can do to keep cost under control is to be reasonable in terms of what their outcome-based perspective might be. People who have unreasonable perspectives as to their position on a case who won’t adhere to obvious guidelines along the way can result in a case taking on a life of its own and the litigating for years and years and years without a positive outcome.