Ending a marriage is a multifaceted and stressful process, no matter what your divorce might entail. It’s common for people preparing for divorce in St. Charles, MO, to anticipate heated court battles and expensive legal fees, but protracted litigation is not the only way to settle your divorce. Many couples in St. Charles and throughout Missouri opt for alternative dispute resolution to save time and money on their divorces. Think of alternative dispute resolution as a private settlement for a divorce case. Instead of leaving the outcome of your divorce in the hands of a judge, you and your spouse can negotiate divorce terms that better suit both your preferences.

The most popular and arguably the most effective form of alternative dispute resolution available in St. Charles, MO, is divorce mediation. If you want to make your divorce as easy as possible, it’s vital to consider the potential value of the mediation process. The following are some of the most common questions people have about the divorce mediation process.

Q: What Are the Requirements for Divorce Mediation?

A: The only actual prerequisites for divorce mediation are that both spouses must agree to it, and they must find a neutral mediator who has no reason to favor either of them. The mediator cannot hold any conflicts of interest or provide direct legal counsel to either spouse. If you and your spouse agree to mediation, you can both determine a mutually agreeable schedule for your mediation sessions.

Q: How Long Does Divorce Mediation Take?

A: It’s possible to complete divorce mediation in a matter of weeks. Many couples take a few months to finalize the process. The time required to complete mediation largely depends on the divorcing spouses’ willingness to negotiate and participate in constructive dialogue. It’s possible to complete mediation without any face-to-face discussions by the couple having their respective attorneys act as proxies in negotiation, but this will take much longer. Ultimately, divorce mediation typically requires much less time than litigation.

Q: How Do I Find a Mediator?

A: Mediators are typically active family law professionals who offer mediation services outside of their regular practice. Some mediators are former attorneys who no longer represent clients and instead offer mediation as their primary business practice. Your divorce attorney can help you locate a suitable mediator in your area. Your attorney and your spouse’s attorney will likely work together to narrow down a list of candidates, and then you and your spouse must mutually agree on a mediator to proceed.

Q: What Does the Mediator Do?

A: The mediator’s job is to guide discussions, clarify relevant legal statutes, and help the divorcing couple draft a functional divorce settlement. The mediator will likely host joint sessions with both spouses and their respective attorneys and one-on-one sessions with each of the spouses. However, the mediator cannot offer any direct legal counsel to either party, so it’s always best for each spouse to have legal counsel during divorce mediation.

Q: Do I Need a Lawyer for Divorce Mediation?

A: While legal counsel is not required for divorce mediation, it is always best to have an attorney on your side for this process. Even if you think you and your spouse are on relatively agreeable terms if they have an attorney and you do not, this puts you at a significant disadvantage when it comes to your negotiating position. In addition, your attorney can assist with the procedural aspects of your divorce and provide ongoing support and guidance throughout your mediation sessions, helping you make more informed decisions.

Q: Can I Resolve My Divorce Entirely Privately?

A: One of the most attractive aspects of divorce mediation for many St. Charles, MO, couples is that it is entirely private. If you settle your divorce in court, everything said during litigation is recorded into the public record. Divorce proceedings often require discussion of deeply personal topics, many of which most people would rather remain private. If you resolve your divorce through mediation, everything said in mediation sessions remains confidential, but there will be an official public record of your divorce.

Q: What Can’t I Settle in Mediation?

A: One common divorce issue that cannot be resolved in divorce mediation is child custody, and by extension, child support. The family court system of St. Charles, MO, has a legal obligation to preserve the best interests of children affected by the court’s ruling. Therefore, a family court judge must review your proposed parenting plan and determine whether it suits the best interests of your children. Once custody is determined, the judge will evaluate various financial issues and you and your ex’s respective custody rights to settle child support obligations for each of you.

Q: What Happens If Divorce Mediation Fails?

A: Divorce mediation can only “fail” if both spouses are entirely unwilling to compromise on any aspect of their divorce. It’s common for divorcing spouses to take an a la carte approach to alternative dispute resolution. If the couple has difficulty with civil negotiation, they can settle through private mediation before transitioning their divorce case to the court. This will significantly reduce the time required to complete the divorce process.

Q: Is Divorce Mediation Worth the Trouble?

A: Most divorcing couples will quickly learn that mediation is a much more relaxed and approachable method to resolving divorce than litigation. Many people find the courtroom environment daunting, and it can feel incredibly disempowering to realize the outcome of your divorce is entirely in the hands of the judge. No matter your perspective of your situation, there is no guarantee the judge will see things your way. Divorce mediation can not only save you time and money but also enable you to reach a far more favorable outcome to your divorce than litigation.

Every divorce will involve unique issues, and everyone who endures the divorce process will have different needs and concerns as the process unfolds. If you are unsure whether divorce mediation would be the best option for your divorce, consult an experienced St. Charles, MO, divorce attorney to learn more about the potential benefits of alternative dispute resolution.