A traditional court proceeding in which parties appear in court to argue a case before a judge can be costly – in dollars, time, and emotion. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) offers a way to settle disputes without litigation and is increasingly used for divorce and similar disputes. Unless domestic violence is a factor, all parties must attempt some form of ADR before proceeding to trial.

Forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution

The best-known ADR method is mediation. Mediation is generally not evaluative. The mediator will not share opinions or recommendations, but rather will facilitate the communication between parties to help them negotiate a settlement. Mediators will not impose their views on the disputed issues unless the parties request that. In that instance, the process is typically referred to as an “evaluative” mediation.

Other forms of ADR:

Early Neutral Evaluations

Early Neutral Evaluations (ENE) are confidential, voluntary, evaluative processes for prompt resolution of custody, parenting time or visitation, and financial disputes.

There are two options of ENE:

For a social early neutral evaluation (SENE), a team of two evaluators (usually one male and one female) conduct the evaluative session to address custody and parenting time issues.

For a financial early neutral evaluation (FENE), one evaluator conducts the evaluation focusing on financial issues such as asset and debt division, child support, and spousal maintenance.

In both cases, an evaluator gathers information from both parties and recommends possible settlement terms. Because these evaluations are confidential, the information shared or discussed cannot be used in court.

Parenting Consultations (PC) and Parenting Time Expeditor (PTE)

Parties may be court-ordered to use a Parenting Time Expeditor (PTE) or they may voluntarily agree to use a Parenting Consultant (PC). With either of these processes, the PC or PTE will hear the dispute and will often try to help the parties reach an agreement.

If the parties cannot reach an agreement, the PC or PTE will make a binding decision, unless one of the parties appeals the decision to the district court judge (not the same as an appeal to the Court of Appeals).

Additional ADR Forms

Other forms of ADR used in domestic matters include the following adjudicative processes:

The Consensual Special Magistrate process is always binding but can be appealed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

Arbitration is used in divorce cases to decide issues of personal property, for example. It may be court-ordered or agreed to by the parties and is not binding unless the parties agree in writing that it will be binding.

Mediation-Arbitration is a hybrid of mediation and arbitration. Here, the parties start by mediating their disputed issues. If they are unable to agree, the arbitrator will decide.

Is ADR the best way for you to work out differences in your divorce? Contact the family law attorneys of Bolt Hoffer Boyd Law Firm at (763) 406-7000 for a free initial consultation to discuss the best approach for your unique circumstances. We have experience with all forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution.