People get divorced because they can no longer live together. But if you and your spouse have children, you’ll most likely be stuck with each other even after the divorce. Adding a nasty courtroom battle to your list of conflicts isn’t always a great idea.
In Minnesota, the courts most often ask parents to resolve their custody concerns in mediation—or some other form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR)—before taking them to trial. Settling matters in ADR can help reduce future conflicts and set you on the path toward a better future. However, to make the most of ADR, you want to understand its advantages and how to approach the process effectively.
The advantages of alternative dispute resolution
Importantly, there are more types of ADR than just mediation. Minnesota law recognizes several different forms of alternative dispute resolution. Each of these ADRs offers you a different approach to settling your disputes, but they all share several common advantages over courtroom proceedings. These include:
- You gain more control over the process. ADR works for the parties involved. Courtroom proceedings are colder, more formal and more rigid.
- You may be able to find and use more creative solutions to your situation than you’d see in court.
- You can address concerns, such as shared expectations for your children’s education and activities, that the courts don’t usually touch.
- They can be faster, more efficient and less expensive than going to court.
- The parties in ADR are less likely to feel like they’ve been in battles they either won or lost. As a result, they’re less likely to carry lingering hostility into their future interactions.
ADR isn’t for everyone. It may not work for marriages that involved abuse, and it may not work if the parties no longer trust each other. Both parties will need to make compromises, even as they stand fast for what they believe, and that can be a tricky line to walk.
How to make the most of alternative dispute resolution
Although settling your differences in mediation or other ADR can often be less expensive than taking them to court, the bills can still add up. You want to make the most of your time. This means:
- Focus on your goals. If you’re able to focus on goals that leave a little room for negotiation, you’re less likely to get bogged down in arguments.
- Prepare! You’re better off thinking through your issues outside of ADR than when multiple parties are present and billing by the hour. Ideally, you’ll use ADR to resolve your problems, not to define them.
- Bring the right experts to help. The different forms of ADR leave tremendous room to use different mediators, therapists, accountants and other expert witnesses.
- Have your lawyer review the agreement. It’s much easier to get things right the first time around than to fix them later.
There are also times when mediation and other forms of ADR will fall apart mid-process. If this happens, it’s important to remember that you don’t need to feel stuck with an ADR that isn’t working. You can still bring your case to court.
Aiming at a better future
Divorce is painful and stressful, but it can also lead toward a better future. With that in mind, it’s important to think of how each step can set you along one path or another. Mediation and other forms of ADR often lead to less conflict and better outcomes for parents and children.