Divorce and Family Law Mediation in Minnesota
documents to provide in advance
Reaching an agreement
The value of a FENE agreement
feedback from the evaluators
Reaching an Agreement
The value of a SENE agreement
Have you made the decision to get a divorce, and you would like to attempt mediation prior to hiring an attorney? Have you started a divorce process and are told that you need to participate in mediation? Have you finalized your divorce and now issues have come up with custody, parenting time, spousal maintenance or any other issues, and you have a mediation clause in your Judgment and Decree that requires you to attempt mediation prior to going back to court? If you find yourself in any of these situations, contact our office to schedule mediation with Adam Blahnik. Adam is a state qualified mediator, a qualified early neutral evaluation (ENE) evaluator and is currently on the Scott County FENE and SENE roster. The fees for these SENE and FENE sessions are established through the County. Adam charges $220 per hour for mediation (that does not otherwise qualify as a FENE or SENE through the County), which is usually divided equally between the two individuals participating in mediation ($110 per hour per person).
The Mediation Process
Mediation in Minnesota divorce proceedings involves both spouses meeting with a neutral third party (who is frequently a divorce attorney), usually at the office of the mediator to discuss and attempt to resolve the disputed divorce issues. Mediation can be accomplished at anytime during the divorce process, or even before the divorce proceedings are commenced. If no agreement is reached in mediation, the discussions from mediation are confidential and cannot be used in court (e.g. someone cannot say in court, "he offered me $1,000.00 per month in mediation"). If a complete agreement is reached in mediation, the agreement must be reduced to writing and incorporated into a Stipulated Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Order for Judgment and Judgment and Decree of Dissolution of Marriage for the spouses to sign and then submit to the court for filing. If either or both of the spouses has an attorney, usually the attorney drafts such documents.
Mediation or another form of alternative dispute resolution is required in all divorce proceedings in Minnesota (except in some cases where domestic abuse is involved). Further, it is common practice to insert a "mediation clause" in most final divorce agreements and decrees that pertains, at a minimum, to issues regarding children. What this means, is if either parent is wanting to modify any provisions of the final divorce agreement regarding custody or parenting time, that parent must first attempt mediation prior to bringing a post-decree motion in Court to modify such provisions in the final divorce decree.
Early Neutral Evaluations (ENE)
An early neutral evaluation (ENE) is a confidential alternative dispute resolution technique designed for faster settlement of cases. There are two forms of ENEs based on whether the issues in dispute are property and financial matters (FENE) or custody and parenting time issues (SENE). An ENE is usually ordered at the Initial Case Management Conference (ICMC) in a divorce proceeding.
There is typically one evaluator for the Financial Early Neutral Evaluation (FENE) process. The purpose of an FENE is to provide the individuals with early neutral feedback on one or more financial issues with the hope and anticipation that if the individuals have the neutral information, they will be better able to attain a settlement early in the process - before their money is expended through the litigation process. When comparing the costs of pursuing lengthy adversarial evaluations and litigation over financial issues, with a quick analysis and assessment of possible settlement terms early in the case - most parties prefer the quick and low cost approach. In taking this approach, it is possible to reach a settlement very early in the process and before either party has spent much in attorney's fees and costs.
For Social Early Neutral Evaluations (SENE), there are normally two evaluators, usually consisting of one man and one women. Although, this is not required, The SENE process is more formal than the FENE process. The goal of a SENE is to obtain a joint evaluative opinion from both SENE evaluators on custody and parenting time. A SENE session is normally scheduled for four hours and includes:
a brief introduction by the evaluators
an opportunity for each parent to discuss a history of the relationship between the parents, the circumstances surrounding the birth of their child or children, the roles that each parent had or has in raising the children, such as getting them up in the morning, putting them to bed at night, making meals, taking them to appointments, the likes, dislikes and quirks of the children, any concerns that each parent may have regarding the other parent and the parent’s proposed custody and parenting time schedule
an opportunity for each parent to respond to the other parents initial statement
a opportunity for the two evaluators to ask any questions or follow-up that may not have been answered in the statements from the parents
the two evaluators will then meet separately and formulate specific feedback, opinions and recommendations on legal custody, physical custody, a parenting time schedule and any other parenting issues that require attention
the two evaluators will then rejoin the session with the parents and discuss their evaluative recommendations with the parents
the session then normally involves a discussion on whether the parents agree or disagree with the evaluative recommendations or whether they may simply want to slightly modify the recommendations
if the parents reach a full or partial agreement, that agreement is usually reduced writing that is signed by the parents
Contact Adam Blahnik to schedule Mediation or an ENE
If you are wanting or needing to schedule mediation or a FENE or SENE, contact Adam Blahnik to discuss your options and to get a mediation session calendared. Our office has multiple conference rooms to accommodate mediating in separate rooms if necessary or desired.