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Mediation of Family Disputes in Missouri

Receently I read an article in a nationally distributed magazine for family law attorneys about tips to give to clients going to mediation. Because I was trained in mediation in 1985 ad have never practiced it, I asked a colleague, Marta J. Papa, family law attorney, mediator and leading teacher of mediation to lawyers, Judges and therapists, for her thoughts  (Marta’s website may be found at A link to the original article follows, and Marta’s comments are set forth below:

It sounds very different than the way we mediate in Missouri and Illinois. This style of mediation is only used in civil litigation cases in Illinois and Missouri, where both parties are represented by attorney’s. One party and their attorney are in one room, And the other party and their attorney are in a different room. The mediator does something called shuttle mediation, where in the mediator shuttles from  room A to room B .The parties never speak directly to each other. This process takes a very long time and prevents the couple from transforming the way they resolve disputes. Because the mediator decides for them. This kind of set up in Missouri is called early neutral evaluation. But I know they do it in divorce mediation in some states like Texas. The author of this article appears to be from Birmingham Alabama and perhaps they use shuttle mediation in family law as well as civil law. The kind of mediation I practice is called transformational mediation. The purpose is to transform the way the couple resolve disputes, and you can only do that with having them both in the same room. This style described in this article is not much better than rent to judge to resolve the issues. It has no long-term positive effect on the couple. The way we mediate family disputes in Missouri does not allow lawyers to attend the mediation sessions, or write a position statement, or be a butcher, as described by the author. It is three people in one room Trying to resolve disputes in a respectful manner. But I do recognize that some states use the shuttle mediation method in the family mediation. Clearly, I don’t think that is the best option for divorcing couples. But, they didn’t ask me. Thanks so much for reviewing this article that helps inform the public about their several options.

I also asked Simone Haberstock McCartney, another prominent mediator and educator for her thoughts, and here is what she said. I frankly have reservations with several things in this article. The article seems to focus on positional bargaining when mediation has its roots in integrative or interested-based negotiation. These are entirely different forms of negotiation and interest-based negotiation is integral to all mediation work no matter the issue involved. The article also seems to reflect a civil mediation (caucus) approach rather than what we typically see in family law. We want the parties to hear each other and talk to each other as much as possible (since they are frequently co-parents as well)- we do not want them in separate rooms unless that choice is made strategically. Attorneys can certainly be helpful to the mediator both in and outside the room. We can accommodate attorneys being present at any time but having the attorneys present to participate is more often strategic and done by design with the input of the parties and the attorneys.