Mediation in Missouri is an important tool that many couples rely on when they are considering divorce. Instead of the difficult process of litigating the divorce in court, mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that does not involve a trial.
There are times when mediation is undertaken voluntarily between a couple considering divorce. There are also times when a judge will require mediation in an ongoing divorce proceeding before a trial can occur. This court-ordered mediation is mandatory, and attendance is not optional.
You do not have to face the prospect of court-ordered mediation on your own. Having strong legal counsel by your side could ensure that your rights are protected throughout the mediation process. If you are ready to speak to a divorce mediation lawyer, reach out to J. Rench Law Firm, LLC today.
What is Voluntary Mediation in Missouri?
Voluntary mediation happens outside of the court system. As the name implies, this type of mediation only occurs when both parties voluntarily agree to it. Most of the time, voluntary mediation begins before or shortly after divorce petitions are filed.
Every aspect of this process is voluntary. That means if a spouse decides they do not want to participate or appear, there is nothing stopping them. Voluntary mediation only works so long as both spouses are able to stay on the same page.
Even when the parties both agree to attempt mediation, the process is not always successful. In some cases, the parties might learn that their disagreements on key issues are too severe to resolve. When this happens, litigation is likely. It is always possible for the spouses to return to mediation later.
What is Court-Ordered Mediation in Missouri?
Court-ordered mediation involves the same process as voluntary meditation. The goal is the same—to resolve the disputes surrounding a divorce without the need for litigation. The important difference is that these proceedings are not voluntary. As with any court order, failure to comply with an order issued by a judge can carry steep consequences.
The court is not directly involved in the mediation process, outside of potentially selecting a mediator or pool of available mediators. However, a judge will quickly become involved if one or both parties refuse to attend mediation. If this refusal persists, it could lead to a finding of contempt of court.
Contempt of court is the most serious sanction that can come out of a divorce case. If a judge finds you in contempt, they could fine you or even sentence you to jail. These consequences make it necessary to attend court-ordered mediation.
It is important to remember that while compliance with the process is mandatory, acceptance of the outcome is not. You are never obligated by the court to reach an agreement through the mediation process.
Understanding the Mediation Process in Missouri
Whether mediation is voluntary or court-ordered, the process is generally the same. Both spouses provide the mediation—who is a neutral third party attorney—with a list of the marital assets and debts. The mediator will then meet with the spouses to determine if they can reach an agreement on the major conflicts in the marriage. These conflicts could involve the division of assets, child support, or spousal support obligations.
In some cases, all of the parties will meet together in a single room. During other mediation, the mediator will meet with each party individually to see if they can reach an agreement.
Talk to an Attorney About Mediation in Your Divorce Case
Over the years, the divorce rate in Missouri has dropped. However, thousands of couples each year continue to dissolve their marriage. Given this reality, mediation has become a major tool for amicably resolving divorce disputes.
If you are considering divorce mediation, now is the time to talk to an attorney. Our firm is ready to help you work toward a favorable outcome in your divorce. Mediation could provide you with an amicable resolution. If you are ready to get started, contact the J. Rench Law Firm, LLC today for a private consultation.
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