Divorce mediation has steadily grown in popularity, becoming the most chosen option for settling divorces in the United States. Mediation is a streamlined alternative to litigation that can save time, money, and frustration with a difficult divorce case. The process allows both spouses to walk away from the case with a mutually agreeable divorce settlement that provides more personalization than anything a St. Louis family court judge could offer.
If you are planning to divorce in St. Louis, MO, it is essential to understand the process and know what to expect before it begins. The right mediator can help both you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse navigate the complex and emotionally challenging process of divorce more easily.
What Is a Mediator?
A mediator is a third party responsible for guiding divorce mediation sessions. Most of the divorce mediators working in the St. Louis, MO area are practicing family law attorneys or former divorce lawyers with years of experience navigating the Missouri family court system. These attorneys act as neutral third parties for divorce negotiations, helping divorcing spouses reach mutually agreeable terms to their divorces in a fraction of the time required for litigation.
You and your spouse must find a mediator that suits both of you. This means the mediator cannot have any conflicts of interest favoring either of you. If you or your spouse has hired the attorney in any capacity in the past, you will need to choose a different mediator. Your St. Louis divorce attorney can provide several recommendations for mediators and help you and your spouse find one suitable for both of you.
Do I Really Need a Lawyer for Mediation?
You may wonder whether you really need to hire a divorce attorney if you are planning to mediate your divorce. Some people entering divorce mediation mistakenly assume that the mediator can provide the legal guidance they need to negotiate effectively, but this is not the case. The mediator is responsible for guiding negotiations and helping the couple draft their divorce agreement, but they cannot offer any direct legal advice to either spouse. You can rely on the mediator to answer general legal questions and clarify the statutes that apply to your divorce case, but you cannot expect any individual legal counsel from them.
It is technically possible to navigate divorce mediation without an attorney, but this is inadvisable for most people. Your attorney can provide valuable guidance through each stage of your divorce mediation process. They can help you understand the legal aspects of the situation in greater detail so you can make more informed decisions about your negotiation position.
How Does the Mediation Process Work?
Most divorce mediators will devote time to overseeing face-to-face negotiations between the two divorcing spouses as well as arranging one-on-one sessions with each spouse. This helps the mediator ensure a more equitable divorce settlement and provides a streamlined method for handling the required negotiations. The couple can work through most of the financial aspects of their divorce through mediation, including property division and spousal support determinations.
Depending on the complexity of your divorce case, you could potentially conclude your mediation sessions in a matter of weeks or just a month or two. However, it is also possible for mediation to take several months. In these situations, mediation remains preferable to litigation because it still allows the divorcing spouses to complete the divorce process much more quickly.
Your mediator should begin the mediation process by providing a general framework for how they anticipate your mediation sessions will proceed. They will identify the aspects of your divorce most likely to require substantial time and effort, as well as those that are easier to address.
What to Expect from Your Divorce Mediator
Divorcing couples across the US are choosing divorce mediation to avoid the stress and expense of litigation. A good mediator can enable both spouses to have a more positive experience and reach more fulfilling outcomes by facilitating constructive negotiations. A good St. Louis divorce mediator should remain neutral during all phases of mediation and refrain from showing favor to either spouse. They should clearly explain legal statutes as they arise in negotiations and help the divorcing spouses address difficult aspects of their divorce effectively.
While an experienced mediator can enable divorcing spouses to have a more agreeable divorce experience, it is essential to acknowledge the limitations of the divorce mediation process. There are certain divorce-related issues that a couple cannot resolve through private divorce mediation. Primarily, divorcing parents cannot resolve child custody or child support through mediation. A divorce mediator can help divorcing parents develop a framework for their preferred custody and support terms, but this proposal must be reviewed by a Missouri family court judge. It is still worth drafting this proposal because if the judge determines it is reasonable and aligns with applicable state laws, they may approve it with few to no changes.
It is also possible to encounter other problems you cannot resolve through mediation, such as the division of complex investment accounts or issues pertaining to domestic violence. Some couples may need to take an “a la carte” approach to divorce mediation. They may settle what they can with alternative dispute resolution before moving forward with litigation.
How to Start the Mediation Process in St. Louis, MO
The main prerequisite to starting divorce mediation in Missouri is securing the consent of both divorcing spouses. Both must agree to alternative dispute resolution for the process to begin. Even if divorcing spouses fight about everything and cannot seem to have a civil conversation, mediation is still possible if both are willing to try the process. The divorcing spouses and their respective attorneys will determine which local mediator is the best fit for their divorce and then schedule their first meetings.
It’s natural to have doubts and concerns about the divorce process. If you are having trouble determining the best approach to your divorce, contact an experienced St. Louis, MO divorce lawyer as soon as possible to get the answers you need to your most pressing legal questions.