About Kevin McGrath
Kevin McGrath returned to private practice in January of 2011 after serving as a Referee in the Hennepin County Family Court for nearly five years. Kevin’s tenure at the Family Court included serving as Lead Referee. Kevin now operates McGrath Dispute Resolution, LLC, where he solely focuses on providing a variety of dispute resolution services to families in transition.
Prior to joining the Family Court, he was a partner in the Bloomington law firm of Jensen, McGrath, Mullen & McSweeney, PLLP, where he focused on family law and alternative dispute resolution. McGrath was named a Super Lawyer, was selected one of Minnesota’s Top 40 Family Law Attorneys, and was honored as one of Minnesota’s Top 100 Lawyers. He was and remains a member of the steering committee that established the Hennepin County Financial Early Neutral Evaluation (FENE) program.
Kevin is a Rule 114 Qualified Neutral for civil and family law mediation, arbitration and evaluative matters. Kevin has conducted trainings on Early Case Management, Financial ENE, Social ENE, dispute resolution, legal writing, child development, and other topics throughout Minnesota and in other jurisdictions. In addition, Kevin was the primary author of the Financial Early Neutral Evaluation Handbook. Kevin is a frequent teacher at Continuing Legal Education seminars in Minnesota on topics ranging from dispute resolution, to motion practice, trial practice, and courtroom conduct. Kevin gave the keynote address at the Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Divorce Camp in 2010, urging the lawyers, accountants, mental health therapists, and judicial officers in attendance to consider the benefits of helping parties in family law cases self-determine their futures. Kevin has presented on multiple occasions at the Association of Family and Conciliation Court national conferences on topics related to child custody and parenting time.
He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School and served as a law clerk at the Minnesota Supreme Court for Justice Joan Ericksen and Justice Russell Anderson.
Mediation is a voluntary process that is the most common dispute resolution method used in family law cases. In this confidential process, the parties meet with a mediator, who is a neutral, and work toward agreements on the various issues in their case. The mediator’s role is to facilitate settlement, not to make decisions or give legal advice. Mediation allows the parties to: (1) maintain control of the outcome of their dispute; (2) save time, money, and the personal toll that litigation takes out of families; and (3) decreases the frequency of post-decree litigation when compared to outcomes imposed by the Court through contested proceedings.
Arbitration is a process where parties and counsel present positions to a neutral arbitrator, who renders a decision in much the same manner as a judge or referee. The decision may be binding or non-binding depending on the parties’ agreement.
Mediation/Arbitrationis a process sometimes called med-arb. The parties agree that they will first attempt to mediate their issues, but if they are unable to reach settlement, they will proceed to a binding arbitration with the same qualified neutral. This process has the advantage of using one neutral to streamline the dispute resolution process.
Financial Early Neutral Evaluation (FENE): This is a voluntary, confidential process designed to help families with financial disputes who would be helped by the informed recommendations of an evaluator. Evaluators are experienced lawyers and accountants who have received special training in the FENE process. The process is centered on saving resources and avoiding litigation by presenting each parties’ positions to an experienced neutral evaluator who most often will share his or her view of the issues with the parties and their lawyers before facilitating settlement. FENE is a confidential process and the positions of the parties and the opinions of the evaluator are not to be used in court. In most Minnesota district courts, the parties choose their evaluator from a roster kept by the Court.
Kevin McGrath has been at the forefront of the FENE process in Minnesota since the beginning, serving as an initial member of the Hennepin County FENE Steering Committee and remaining on the committee today. Kevin has been on the roster of qualified FENE providers since its inception. Kevin has taught FENE techniques throughout Minnesota and other jurisdictions and regularly presents on the topic at Continuing Legal Education courses.
Social Early Neutral Evaluation (SENE): This is a voluntary, confidential process designed to help families reach resolution of custody and parenting time matters in a short period of time after the initial filing of the court action. SENE is frequently performed by two-person teams who offer their evaluative impressions of the dispute and then work to help the parties resolve their differences. SENE can involve the gathering of limited collateral data, the use of other experts, or interviews with the children, if the facts of the case call for such techniques. In Hennepin County, the vast majority of SENE cases are referred to the Hennepin County Department. Kevin has trained evaluators throughout Minnesota and in Colorado.
Parenting Consultation: The use of a parenting consultant is a voluntary process that is not regulated by statute. Parenting consultants are given their authority through the agreement of the parties and through the Court’s Order making the appointment. Parenting consultants in Minnesota make binding decisions that are usually appealable to the Family Court. Some parents opt to make the decisions appealable to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Most parenting consultants first attempt to resolve the dispute through a mediation-like process, but then have the authority to make a binding decision. Parenting consulting is not a confidential process and most parenting consultant agreements and orders provide that the parenting consultant may be called to testify in court of a party challenges the decision of the parenting consultant. Kevin strives to provide procedural protections to the parties while attempting to facilitate a settlement before making a decision. Kevin’s time on the family court bench provides him with experience making decisions regarding children when it is necessary.
Parenting Time Expeditors (PTEs) are appointed by the Court, either by agreement of the parties or the Court’s own initiative, pursuant to Minnesota Statute 518.1751. This process is confidential and uses a mediation-arbitration model to enforce, interpret and clarify existing court orders, address parenting time issues not specifically addressed by an existing court order, and/or determine if an existing court order has been violated. In contrast to a Parenting Consultant, a Parenting Time Expeditor may not change or make decisions inconsistent with an existing court order.
Moderated Settlement Conference is dispute resolution process is often combined with a pre-trial/pre-hearing conference. It involves the use of a neutral to conduct a moderated settlement conference before or during a pre-trial/pre-hearing conference. This conference may involve evaluative opinions from the neutral, who may, with the parties’ consent, consult with the assigned judicial officer to further settlement efforts.
While on the bench, Kevin coordinated a program with the Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers to bring Moderated Settlement Conferences to the Hennepin County Family Court. The program targeted difficult cases and resulted in a high percentage of settled cases.
Parenting Coaching:this is a service that is based on a contract between the coach and the parent to provide individual assistance for various issues related to custody and parenting time disputes. Coaching involves education and advice on how to navigate through a difficult time in a parent’s life. Parenting coaching is not defined by statute and is a confidential process.
Divorce Coaching: a service similar to Parenting Coaching but focused on the financial implications of divorce. Divorce coaching also emphasizes education and is designed to help ease the stress of a stressful time in a person’s life.
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