St. Louis Divorce Mediation Lawyer
Mediation is generally defined under Rule 17 (3) as: “… a process in which a neutral third party facilitates communication between the parties to promote settlement. A mediator may not impose his or her own judgment on the issues for that of the parties.”
More specific to the application of mediation in the family law setting where issues of child custody and parenting issues are to be determined it is more particularly defined by Rule 88.03 as: “… the process by which a neutral mediator appointed by the court assists the parties in reaching a mutually acceptable agreement as to issues of child custody and visitation. The role of the mediator is to assist the parties in identifying the issues, reducing misunderstanding, clarifying priorities, exploring areas of compromise, and finding points of agreement. An agreement reached by the parties is to be based on the decisions of the parties and not the decisions of the mediator. The agreement reached can resolve all or only some of the disputed issues.”
Mediation is distinguished from other forms of alternative dispute resolution for privacy, informality, flexibility, and lack of coercion.
Format and procedures for mediation of Missouri family law issues will vary from mediator to mediator. However, certain common practices which will likely be encountered are:
- Prior to the actual session the mediator will send a letter confirming the appointment, and include information regarding fees and a copy of the Agreement for Mediation. This document will further detail fee agreements, issues regarding confidentiality, and communications which are and are not permitted between the mediator, the participants, and third parties.
- The first session typically is when the Agreement for Mediation is executed. The mediator further explains the process.
- The mediator dialogues with the participants in order to understand the relevant factual issues, and to further understand what facts may be in dispute. “Opening Statements” by counsel or the participants is not a common feature of family law issue mediations. Caucusing is less likely to occur in a family law issue mediation than in a non-family issue mediation.
- An agenda of issues is developed with the assistance of the participants.
- The agenda is prioritized.
- Options concerning the issues are generated.
- Evaluation and selection of options occurs after the menu of options is generated.
- The mediator confirms with the participants the matters which have been agreed upon. Subsequent sessions may be scheduled.
- The mediator issues a memorandum of the understandings reached to the participants and their attorneys.
Before agreeing to mediation, it is important to talk to an experienced Missouri mediation attorney about whether your case is appropriate for mediation. Some cases, such as cases involving domestic violence, or cases where one spouse has hidden or dissipated assets, are not cases which should typically be mediated. Other cases may be appropriate for mediation only after appropriate discovery has been completed by an attorney to determine financial issues such as the true income of someone who is self-employed, values of real estate, business valuations, and tax consequences of being awarded certain assets.