Many divorcing couples in the St. Louis, MO, area and throughout the United States choose alternative dispute resolution to settle their divorce cases instead of traditional divorce litigation. Alternative dispute resolution in divorce mediation saves time and money while keeping divorce proceedings private, allowing divorcing spouses to move through their cases with confidence and peace of mind while avoiding the typically high cost of legal fees that litigation imposes.
Unfortunately, it is not always possible for divorcing couples to settle all aspects of their divorces through divorce mediation. In some situations, this is unavoidable. In others, the couple may be unwilling to compromise on specific issues and will require formal legal review through litigation. For example, suppose you are planning to end your marriage in St. Louis, MO, in the near future and want to take full advantage of alternative dispute resolution. In that case, it is natural to have questions and reservations about the benefits of this process and what will happen if you and your spouse cannot settle all your divorce-related issues through mediation.
How Does Mediation Work?
When you and your spouse are willing to negotiate in divorce mediation, the two of you and your respective legal representatives will choose and meet with a neutral mediator. The mediator’s primary function is to facilitate a productive negotiation between the two of you and assist both of you in drafting a comprehensive divorce resolution. Typically, mediation entails multiple sessions in a comfortable, low-pressure environment such as the mediator’s office or conference room. During each session, the mediator will help the couple negotiate terms for an aspect of their divorce, such as property division, alimony, and other issues. Mediation only takes as long as the divorcing couple requires to move through all of their issues.
Mediation will involve collaborative sessions with the mediator, both spouses, and their respective legal representatives. The mediator will also arrange one-on-one sessions with each of the spouses, ultimately helping them draft a mutually agreeable divorce resolution as complete as possible. However, some issues will require a formal legal review. Additionally, if the couple cannot negotiate mutually agreeable terms on any aspect of their divorce, they will need to go to court to resolve these issues.
What Can’t Be Decided in Mediation?
The Missouri family court system has a legal obligation to verify that any child custody and child support agreement suits the children’s best interests the agreement will affect. If you and your spouse have children together, you cannot decide custody or support in mediation. Your mediator can assist you in creating a proposal for custody and support terms, but a Missouri family court judge must review and approve this proposal before it takes full legal effect.
Some divorces may also entail highly complex issues that the couple cannot negotiate with a mediator. This is common in high net worth divorce cases where a divorcing couple controls substantial assets and complex investments. As a result, the court may need to get involved to determine a fair resolution to such matters. Additionally, one or both divorcing spouses may consult expert witnesses to ensure they reach a fair and reasonable outcome to the more complex issues their divorce cases entail.
When Mediation Isn’t an Option
Mediation may offer a more streamlined and inexpensive alternative to divorce litigation, but mediation is not always possible. In addition, in some divorce cases, the divorcing spouses will be compelled into litigation due to the nature of their divorce. For example, if a couple is divorcing because one spouse committed domestic violence against the other or committed a serious crime that directly contributed to the breakdown of the marriage, mediation may be an unrealistic expectation.
If mediation is entirely off the table, the divorcing spouses should prepare for a problematic litigation process. However, if there is any hope of taking advantage of mediation, the couple should do everything they can to take full advantage of its benefits before moving to litigation. If you take time to find a reliable and experienced St. Louis divorce attorney, they will help you determine what can and cannot be settled through mediation and when you will need to prepare for courtroom proceedings.
Litigation Following Mediation
It’s relatively common for divorcing couples to undergo divorce mediation to settle as much as possible before moving to court to handle their remaining issues and finalize their divorce. This is most common when divorcing spouses have children together. Parents cannot determine custody and child support on their own. The mediator and their respective attorneys can help them draft a parenting plan proposal, but a St. Louis family court judge must approve it. Additionally, if the couple cannot settle other aspects of their divorce through mediation, they should expect to begin litigation promptly once they have done as much as possible in mediation sessions.
Your St. Louis divorce lawyer will help you prepare for litigation as fully as possible. The courtroom experience can be incredibly daunting coupled with the emotional stress of divorce. It is invaluable to have reliable legal counsel on your side as you begin your courtroom proceedings. The judge will assess the results of your sessions and determine which aspects require further legal review in court. You can rely on your attorney to prepare you for each of your courtroom appearances, so you know what to expect and can confidently approach the situation.
It is natural to feel uncertain about your divorce, even if you are sure that you need to end your marriage. The notoriously high cost of litigation and the stress this process entails create many misconceptions about the St. Louis divorce process. Therefore, it is vital to obtain the legal counsel you can trust as you begin the divorce process. Take time to contact an experienced St. Louis divorce attorney who can help you navigate your divorce case confidently. Even when you cannot settle the entirety of your divorce in mediation, a good attorney can still help you take full advantage of its benefits before you proceed to court to finalize your divorce.