Almost all families experience several significant changes that were not anticipated by the court-ordered parenting plan as young children grow and enter new stages of their normal developmental process. Mediation helps parents discuss these changes and develop new agreements that makes more sense for older children. As circumstances change, mediation allows parents to discuss these changes in a neutral setting with child development experts as often as needed. Any changes to which the parents agree is documented and made permanent in a Memorandum of Agreement and stipulated agreement as a legal amendment to their original divorce decree without the time of returning to court or the expense of involving attorneys for court litigation. The Minnesota Judicial Branch Web site provides a page with explanations, instructions, and court forms for change of custody and parenting time proceedings.

Minnesota Statute §518.18 governs court decisions regarding modification of existing custody and parenting time orders, and judges do not reverse existing orders unless both parents agree to new arrangements or when circumstances have changed to a significant degree. Specifically, the statute states that “the Court shall not modify a prior custody order or a parenting plan provision which specifies the child's primary residence unless it finds, upon the basis of facts, including unwarranted denial of, or interference with, a duly established parenting time schedule, that have arisen since the prior order or that were unknown to the court at the time of the prior order, that a change has occurred in the circumstances of the child or the parties and that the modification is necessary to serve the best interests of the child.”

The Minnesota Supreme Court has directed Minnesota Family Court judges to incorporate alternative dispute resolution into decisions granting joint physical custody, as in
Minnesota Statute §518.17, Subdivision 2, (b): “Methods for resolving disputes regarding any major decision concerning the life of the child, and the parents’ willingness to use those methods.” Parents who have been granted joint physical custody are ideal candidates for mediating a new custody and parenting time arrangement in their children’s best interests when the families’ circumstances have changed. The alternative is a prolonged, expensive custody evaluation. The standard Northwest Mediation & Custody Evaluation Services fee schedule applies to post-divorce mediations.

Northwest Mediation & Custody Evaluation Services staff are fully trained neutrals
as defined under Minnesota General Rules of Practice Rule 114,
and proud members of the

NWM&CES is a member of the AFCC