Divorce in Missouri can be a challenging process, and many parties expect a bitter, drawn-out battle that involves numerous court appearances and a full-blown trial. However, the reality is that spouses are often able to resolve some divorce disputes out of court during the mediation in Missouri.
There may be some issues to which you would readily agree, and your respective divorce lawyers might make further progress with negotiating a settlement. Plus, Missouri allows for mediation in divorce and family law cases.
When informal negotiations have stalled, you might benefit from a more structured approach to discussing settlement. Mediation may be the solution, as the session is overseen by a trained mediator who guides the parties in productive conversations toward resolving conflicts.
One initial question many people have with mediation options costs. This is an understandable concern, given that financial considerations are a central issue when going through a divorce. The answer to whether you can be forced to pay for mediation varies because it is possible to share or have one party cover the expenses.
Fortunately, the sting of paying is greatly diminished when you realize the many benefits of mediation. It offers opportunities when parties are on common ground, but they need a nudge to overcome hurdles. A St. Louis mediation attorney will help you gain from the advantages, and an overview of the process is informative.
Summary of the Mediation Process in Missouri
Missouri Supreme Court Rules establish the parameters of mediation in divorce cases, and local court rules provide specifics on the process. Mediation takes place at a neutral location instead of a courtroom, and the proceedings are more relaxed than a trial. Though every matter is different, you can expect certain steps along the way:
- Once the case is ordered to mediation, the parties may prepare briefs to aid the mediator in understanding the disputes. The brief should contain a short statement of the facts and proposed solutions to the parties’ disagreements.
- On the date of the mediation, the mediator will begin by making introductions and summarizing the disputes before the parties.
- Each party will also have a chance to state their respective positions on a matter in dispute, and the mediator may use breakout sessions to hear personal input from each party.
- The mediator will engage the parties in conversations about their disagreement, encouraging them to see each other’s points of view.
- Through compromise and negotiations, the mediation professional aids the parties in resolving differences. A mediator does not provide advice or make decisions during the process.
- For all topics where the parties agree, documentation is prepared for their signatures and entering an order in court. If disputes remain, the parties go before the court for a contested hearing.
Roles of Participants in Missouri
It is helpful to understand who will be present and how different participants fit into the mediation process. You and your spouse are parties, just as you are listed in your divorce case. Each party is entitled to have legal representation, and there may be advocates present to protect the interests of children. For instance, a guardian ad litem or court-appointed attorney might be involved with mediation when the topic is child custody and visitation.
The mediation professional takes on a central role as the official overseeing the process. This person has specialized training intended to help facilitate productive conversations between the parties. Mediators ask the parties crucial questions about their futures and keep the discussion focused on problem-solving. Their skills often enable spouses to reach an agreement through compromise and turning away from a win-lose approach to divorce.
Topics to Address in Mediation
You can cover the same divorce-related issues in mediation that you would if you went to court, including:
- Property Division: Missouri is an equitable distribution state for the purposes of dividing the assets and debts of the marriage. This means that property is distributed fairly between the parties, which may not result in an exact split. If a court makes the decision, there are numerous factors to apply for property division. However, in mediation, the parties can divvy up assets and debts in a way they see fit.
- Alimony: There is no right to spousal support, but a court may award it to balance the financial disparities between the parties after the divorce. There are factors a judge reviews when entering an order for alimony, but the spouses can agree to their own terms through mediation.
- Minor Children: In a Missouri divorce court case, child custody and visitation are determined in accordance with the child’s best interests standard. Though there is considerable flexibility when you agree on these issues through mediation, your agreement must still meet this standard. A judge will review the relevant factors to ensure that it serves the child’s best interests.
Get the Legal Support You Need for a Successful Divorce Mediation Process
While there are numerous other reasons why it’s essential to have legal representation during divorce mediation in Missouri, safeguarding your rights is the main objective. At St. Louis Divorce & Mediation, our team has vast experience advocating for clients throughout the process, and we’re equipped to assist you. Reach out to us to speak with an adept divorce mediation attorney, or schedule a consultation on our website. We’ll evaluate your situation and provide a clear overview of what to anticipate in a divorce or family law case.
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