Divorce can be a daunting prospect for anyone who is contemplating ending their marriage. Most North Dakotans believe that a divorce will be an arduous process filled with arguments, anger, insults and lasting unhappiness. North Dakota courts recognize that too often, these fears come true. In order to smooth the often rough process of determining issues such as child custody, dividing property and setting child support and alimony amounts, the courts have developed a set of procedures for use in divorce cases called Family Mediation.
As stated by the supreme court, the Family Mediation Program is intended “to provide a high quality, impartial, and efficient forum for resolving disputed parental rights and responsibilities through mediation.” Mediation is based upon two important concepts: (a) the involvement of a trained neutral party and (b) the encouragement of the couple to decide for themselves how they want to resolve any issues in dispute. An important corollary to these principles is the belief that couples are the best judges of how to arrange their lives after the divorce.
Most North Dakota judges will automatically resolve any domestic dispute to mediation. The parties usually select a mediator from a list of qualified people provided by the court. The parties will have one or more meetings with the mediator in which the mediator will try to help the couple understand each other’s points of view on the matter in dispute and will suggest outcomes that serve the interests of both parties. A mediator is not a judge and cannot decide any matter without the consent of both parties. If the parties are able to reach an agreement, the mediator will draft a written agreement containing the terms upon which the parties have agreed. If no agreement is reached, the case will be restored to the court docket for trial.
Parties to a mediation have the option to have their attorneys attend some or all mediation sessions. Also, attorneys generally review any agreement produced by mediation before the parties sign it. Anyone who has questions about family mediation and how it might affect a divorce proceeding should consult an experienced divorce attorney for advice.
Source: ndcourts.gov, “Rule 8.1 Family Mediation Program,” accessed on March 24, 2018