All Minnesota divorces and other family law matters are referred to mediation by the Court system. Only cases involving domestic violence are exempt. Every divorce decree or family law order has a mediation provision requiring that the parties mediate a post-decree or post-order dispute before returning to court. The only exception to the foregoing is an emergency regarding the minor children.
Over the last few years, the Minnesota Judicial System has made terrific inroads into resolving the access to justice problem. Parties needing legal help can find free legal help online at Minnesota Judicial Branch and at law libraries throughout the State. Parties can opt to prepare and argue their own legal cases, which may not be a good thing in many instances.
The cost of mediation is high. Most mediators bill at a rate of $250 to $300 an hour. While parties may not be shut out of the justice system via the access to justice band wagon, most parties are certainly shut out of mediation. Parties share the costs of mediation, but even at $125 to $150 per party most families cannot afford the three to four hours that it may take to resolve a family dispute.
The question then becomes why isn’t the Judicial System doing something about the high cost of mediation?
What the Justice System should attempt to do is create a cadre of mediators who will offer mediation fees based upon a sliding fee scale; that is, mediation fees based upon what each party’s income is and his or her ability to pay. Everyone should pay something even a minimum. Grants should be made available to fund local mediation centers staffed by attorney/mediators who can organize volunteer mediators.
Access to justice includes the availability of experienced and qualified attorney mediators who offer sliding fee rates. There are a few mediators out there who offer sliding fees or volunteer, but not many.
Just my two cents.
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Kate Willmore, Saint Cloud, Minnesota, Divorce, Father’s Rights, Mother’s Rights, Family Lawyer, Family Court Lawyer and Mediation Coach
Call me at (320) 492-3606 or e-mail me. www.katewillmorelaw.com