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offers two different forms of alternative dispute resolution to the public. The first form of alternative dispute resolution is mediation and the second form is Early Neutral Evaluation (“ENE”). Mediation involves a member of our office talking with both parties in a face to face meeting to see whether an agreement can be reached on any variety of topics. ENE involves listening to the parties and telling them based upon the presented facts what the outcome of a case likely would be if either party pushed the case to a trial before a judge.
Once the evaluator has presented his or her evaluation to the parties then the parties attempt to mediate based upon the evaluation. Regardless of the process chosen it is the function of our office to maintain the role of a “neutral” third party.
The process is confidential. What is said in mediation or ENE stays there; all comments are confidential. The neutral cannot be pulled into court under almost any circumstance. The neutral does not represent either party.
Is mediation right for you? Alternative dispute resolution is a voluntary process, which means that no one can force you to do it or enter an agreement. Parties should participate in mediation so long as they have an open mind about solving the problem and domestic abuse has not occurred.
How much time will it take? It is not uncommon for the first session of alternative dispute resolution to last three to four hours. Sometimes it can last longer depending upon the willingness of the parties to continue working. It is also possible to have multiple mediation sessions if the case is complex enough or there is a need to respect other obligations of the parties. There will also be time spent prior to the mediation getting ready for it or time after words carrying out any steps agreed to by the parties in their agreement.
What won’t I get from mediation? You will not get legal advice from the mediator or evaluator. You also will not get a legalese filled final document. You may be required to take additional steps after the mediation or ENE is complete in order to get your agreed upon resolution approved by a judge as required by applicable state law. This will require the other party or you to draft the needed legal documents without the assistance of the mediator or evaluator. This often times can be accomplished by visiting your state’s judicial branch website or going to the local law library.
What happens after alternative dispute resolution? If an agreement is reached through either process then the agreement will be reduced to a writing known as a Memorandum of Agreement. Both parties will be asked to sign the Memorandum. It may be necessary for the parties to take the Memorandum of Agreement to the judge to have the judge turn it into a court order depending upon the type of case that you have. But generally speaking a Memorandum of Agreement is going to be enforced by a judge to the fullest extent permitted by law. Either party can leave before an agreement is reached and take his or her chances at court with the situation.
Payment: Prior to the first session both parties will sign an agreement for alternative dispute resolution. Unless a different payment arrangement is agreed to by the parties in advance, both parties are obligated to pay one-half of the fees for alternative dispute resolution in advance. The neutral’s fees and costs are charged at an hourly rate. Similar to an attorney handling a family law matter is may be necessary that the parties have to pay more than an initial fee advancement or retainer for the services of the neutral. You may contact our office to learn what the hourly rates are. Payments are accepted by cash, check, money order, debit card, or credit card.
Required legalese: Benjamin Kaasa is a Qualified Rule 114 Neutral under the Minnesota General Rules of Practice for District Courts. He appears on the roster as a Family Law Evaluative and Facilitative Mediator. He performs both social and financial ENEs. For a further statement of qualifications please contact our office.