Our court system is not equipped to handle all disputes in a contested matter. Plain and simple, judges are too busy and have too many cases to take the time to have a trial or evidentiary hearing in each case to determine what the proper outcome should be. In many cases, the actual “legal” answer might not be what either party wants. Judges are required to follow the law. Mediation allows people to decide what is important to them and then allows the parties to a dispute to create a workable solution. Remember, your mediated agreement must be approved by a judge and ordered by the court in order to be enforceable. It is important to make sure that your agreement is in your children’s best interest and not contrary to public policy.
Attorneys have always known that judges expect cases to be settled. With the increasing number of people representing themselves, especially in family court cases, the court has been consistent in holding that pro se litigants are expected to follow the same rules as attorneys. Everyone is expected to attempt to settle their case without having to go to court. People who represent themselves must be held to the same standard as attorneys.
The Minnesota General Rules of Practice require, in Rule 303.03(c), that the moving party (the person bringing the motion) certify to the court that they have attempted to settle their case. Court rules say that the judge should not hear any motion until the moving party certifies their settlement efforts. In other words, the judge has the absolute right to refuse to hear a case until the parties attempt some form of ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution). Mediation is a form of ADR. Additionally, the court has the authority to require a party to pay the legal fees of their opponent if court rules have not been followed. You do not want to show up in court and have the judge find that you have not tried to settle your case. You might find that you are ordered to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars of your opponent’s legal fees simply because you did not attempt to settle your case outside of court.
Additionally, you may find that your divorce decree has language that requires that you go to mediation if you have any disputes regarding custody or parenting time of your children or any other dispute that involves co-parenting and parental cooperation. While mediation is used in many areas of the law, it is especially important in family law because of the need to keep familial relationships functioning for the benefit of healthy children.
Stacy Wright is a Rule 114 Qualified Neutral for Family Law, and can assist in your Minnesota mediation needs. Call: 763-244-1002 to schedule mediation today.
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