Now that St. Louis County requires two hours of mediation in contested child custody cases, it is important to understand what exactly the court means by “mediation.”
It turns out that what they mean is what every attorney understands it to mean, as I learned in my Alternative Dispute Resolution class in law school in 1986. Here is exactly what the Supreme Court says:
“Mediation under this Rule 88 is the process by which a neutral mediator appointed by the court assists the parties in reaching a mutually acceptable agreement as to contested issues in domestic relations and paternity cases, including, but not limited to, child custody, parenting time, parenting plans, child support, maintenance, and property division. 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 contested issues.”
Mediation can be very effective if both litigants approach the process not as a battle, but as a discussion.
In St. Louis County, the mediators employed by the Court provide effective, free mediation of child custody and visitation issues, and we can refer you to equally effective private mediators to help with not only custody and visitation issues but financial and other concerns as well.