Divorce Mediation: The Basics

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Divorce mediation is private and voluntary and it gives you the opportunity to end your marriage in an amicable way.  You can identify and discuss the issues, describe your interests and feelings, clear up misunderstandings, explore areas of compromise, and find points of agreement.  The mediator’s role is to help you negotiate your own agreement without taking sides. The goal is to reach an agreement that works for you – one that is based on your decisions.  A court can require a case to go to mediation, but it is still voluntary because mediation does not have to end in an agreement.

You can initiate mediation at any time, even if you have already filed for divorce. The process for beginning mediation after a court case has been filed differs by county so if you have already filed and are interested in pursuing mediation, consult with a family law attorney to find out  what your next steps should be.

 Why Choose Mediation?

  • Divorce MediationIt is less expensive than the traditional court process because there is a voluntary exchange of information.  When the parties cooperate and share information voluntarily, much of the legal fees incurred in the normal court process are avoided.  Ninety-five percent of divorce cases settle before trial – mediation gives you the opportunity to “jump ahead” to settlement without the costly legal fees.
  • It helps to create a healthier and happier situation for your children by encouraging cooperation rather than conflict.
  • You have more control over your situation – you and your spouse, rather than the judge, will decide issues such as custody and division of marital assets.
  • You can explore “outside-of-the-box” solutions that may work better for your family.
  • You can progress through your divorce at your own pace rather than a specific timeline set by the court.

Who Can Act as the Mediator?

In Missouri, mediators must be either an attorney or mental health professional.  The training that is required varies by the type of case being mediated and by county.  Mediation of custody cases requires additional training that not all mediators have, so if your case involves child custody, be sure to ask if the mediator has proper qualifications.  Whether your mediator is an attorney or a mental health professional, he or she will only give you legal information, not legal advice or representation. Should you and your spouse fail to reach an agreement, the mediator will not be able to represent either of you after mediation has ended.

What Does Mediation Look Like?

Mediation usually consists of a series of meetings involving you, your spouse, and the mediator.  The length and number of sessions will vary depending on your preference and the circumstances of your case.  The mediator will explain the process, help you define the issues to be agreed upon, and set an agenda.  If there are financial issues in dispute, you may be required to provide financial information and documents.   This information is also required in a court case, but in mediation you won’t incur legal fees for an attorney to draft, review, and exchange documents with the other party or to to subpoena documents from third parties.  After the disclosure of information, the mediator may then continue joint or separate sessions with you and your spouse.  Throughout the sessions, you both will have the opportunity to speak and be heard.

After you and your spouse have come to an agreement, the mediator will create a written document outlining the agreement which may or may not be a legal document that can be presented to a judge for approval.  For example, if your mediator is a mental health professional, he or she will not have the legal expertise to draft the final agreement for court approval.  If your mediator is an attorney, he or she may or may not draft the document for you – it will depend on his or her preference.  If your mediator is either unable or unwilling to draft the final agreement, you must hire an attorney to do so. The agreement is not legally enforceable until it is approved by a court.

If you are interested in mediation, either for a divorce or for another family law issue, contact The Law Offices of Kathleen E. Shaul to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.  We are qualified to handle all family law mediation issues, including child custody, and provide full mediation services – from assisting you in reaching your agreement, to drafting it and submitting it to the court.  Call (314) 863-9955 to learn more about how mediation can help smooth your family’s transition during divorce.


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