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Alternative Dispute Resolution in Dissolution of Marriage Proceedings
Alternative Dispute Resolution in Dissolution of Marriage Proceedings – Introduction
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) processes are alternative methods of helping people resolve legal problems before going to court. ADR involves an independent third person, called a “neutral” who tries to help resolve or narrow the areas of conflict.
Why Use ADR?
Rule 114.01(a) of the Minnesota General Rules of Practice requires that most civil and family case types filed in district court are subject to ADR processes. Solving your differences outside of court can provide greater satisfaction to the parties. ADR can have many advantages as well, such as:
- It can save you time.
- It can save you money.
- It can be less stressful.
- It is confidential and private.
- It gives you more control over the outcome of your case.
- It can produce more lasting agreements.
- It may preserve or improve relationships. This is especially important in conflict involving families in which it is critical to preserve the relationship and foster ongoing communication.
What is ADR?
Since the early 1980’s, alternative methods have been developed to help people resolve legal problems, without resorting to litigation. These techniques, known as alternative dispute resolution (ADR), involve an independent third person (a Neutral) who tries to help resolve or narrow the areas of conflict.
The use of ADR early in a case can result in the more efficient, cost-effective resolution of disputes with greater satisfaction to the parties. A great majority of the civil cases, including marital dissolutions, filed in Minnesota State courts are settled without a trial. Yet, most cases do not settle until after the parties and courts have spent a lot of time, money, and emotional energy, and the taxpaying public has borne a great deal of expense. Minnesota courts recognize the effectiveness of ADR as a tool for settling conflicts.
In response, the Minnesota Judicial Branch publishes ADR information that can be found on the Minnesota Judicial Branch web page under the topic of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) / Mediation. Under Minnesota law, parties in most civil cases must consider whether to use ADR to help resolve the dispute.
Rules 114 and 310 of the Minnesota General Rules of Practice describes the procedures for deciding whether to use ADR. Parties are required to discuss the use of ADR and address this issue in the civil cover sheet (non-family cases) / informational statement (family cases) filed with the court. If the parties are unable to decide on the use of an ADR process or a Neutral, the court may order the parties to any number of ADR processes. This does not mean parties are required to settle their differences through ADR.
They are required, however, to at least discuss their differences with the Neutral and attempt to resolve their differences prior to a trial. Minnesota Judicial Branch – ADR | Mediation (mncourts.gov)
Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE)
A process in which one or more Neutrals with experience in the subject matter of the dispute reviews information from the parties or their attorneys after the case is filed but before formal discovery (the formal process of gathering information relevant to the pending litigation, which may include written interrogatories, document production and depositions) is conducted. The Neutral may give an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of a claim, case, or defense; an opinion of settlement value; and an opinion as to how the parties should expect the court to rule on the case or issue presented. The parties, with or without the assistance of the Neutrals, negotiate after hearing the Neutrals’ evaluation. If settlement does not result, The Neutral(s) may help narrow the dispute and suggests guidelines for managing discovery.
Non-Binding Advisory Opinion
A process in which the parties and their counsel present their positions before one or more Neutral(s). The Neutral(s) then issue(s) a non-binding advisory opinion regarding liability, damages, or both.
A process in which the parties present evidence and argument to a Neutral who analyzes a factual dispute and issues findings. The findings are non-binding unless the parties agree to be bound by them. Neutral fact finders selected by the parties for their expertise need not undergo training nor be included on the State Court Administrator’s Rule 114 Roster.
Moderated Settlement Conference (MSC)
A process in which an experienced Neutral offers evaluative impressions to parties to assist in the settlement process in the later stages of family court matters.
Each case will present a unique set of circumstances that will need to be considered by the parties when deciding whether to engage in ADR and to what extent. At Walker Law Professional Corporation we can provide you with sound legal advice to ensure that you make the correct decisions.