When you are getting divorced, Missouri law requires that you distribute your marital property, assets, and debts equitably. Some couples are able to agree on how to divide their property, which then requires the court to sign off on their agreement. However, many divorcing spouses have sticking points and arguments when it comes to certain property, including the family home, electronics, pets, and more.
Some couples let the court address the division of property, which means they relinquish control of what they will keep to the discretion of the judge. The good news is that if you cannot agree at first about property division, there is another option that allows you to maintain control over the outcome – it is called divorce mediation.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that aims for parties to reach resolutions without having to go to court. Mediation can be used in many types of civil cases, and it is commonly used in divorces. Divorce mediation can address many issues on which a couple might disagree, including property division. The spouses meet with a third-party mediator who is neutral in the case, and who will work to facilitate compromise and an agreeable resolution without the need for litigation or court intervention.
Compromise Regarding Property Distribution
There is no doubt that many married couples amass a significant amount of property, assets, and debts. The first step in the process is to take inventory of all of your marital property, which is the property that you and your spouse acquired during the marriage (with a few exceptions). Such marital property can include:
- Your house
- Rental or vacation properties
- Business interests
- Retirement accounts
- Investment accounts
- Personal property, including furniture
Sometimes, you might be able to agree on certain property, such as one spouse will keep her own clothes and jewelry, and the other will keep his gaming system. If spouses have different hobbies, it can be simple for them to agree to each keep the materials and possessions that go along with those hobbies.
However, there might be certain property that the spouses both want to keep, and it can take some work to determine who will get what. A mediator can put all the relevant issues on the table and help the spouses discuss the matter and, hopefully, compromise.
Do You Need a Lawyer During Mediation?
Many divorce mediators are experienced attorneys. However, because a mediator must remain impartial, they cannot give specific legal advice or guidance to one or both spouses. For this reason, it is important for each spouse to have qualified legal representation throughout the mediation process.
Your divorce lawyer can help you do many things, including:
- Prepare an inventory of property to be divided
- Explain your rights under Missouri’s equitable distribution law
- Help you articulate your requests for certain property
- Advise you on concessions you might need to make
- Review potential mediation agreements to ensure they are fair and in line with the law
- Draft the mediation agreement for you to properly reflect your resolution
Overall, it is highly important to have a trusted legal advocate if you decide to engage in mediation.
Factors to Consider When Dividing Property:
The law sets out factors that family courts must consider when determining how to distribute marital property in a divorce case. Even if you are not heading into litigation, understanding these factors can help you reach an agreement on your own terms during litigation. Some factors include the following:
- The economic situation and resources of each spouse
- Whether one spouse is the primary custodial parent and whether it is desirable for the children to remain in the family home
- The separate property that each spouse will retain
- The contributions of each spouse to the marriage and household, both financial contributions and homemaking contributions
- The conduct of each spouse during the marriage, including adultery or wasting of assets or property
Understanding the law with the help of your attorney can make the mediation process go more smoothly. For example, if your spouse will have primary physical custody of your children, you may recognize that often weighs in favor of your spouse gets to keep the family home. You might be more willing to concede ownership of the home in exchange for other types of property.
Learn How a St. Louis Divorce Mediation Attorney Can Assist You
Mediation can help keep the property, assets, and debt distributions out of court, and keep your fate in your own hands. You should discuss this possibility with an experienced St. Louis divorce mediation lawyer at the J. Rench Law Firm. We help clients emerge from the divorce process in the best possible position, so please contact us online or call us at (314) 549-1029 to learn how a St. Louis divorce lawyer can help.