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Mediation is a non-adversarial process in which the people who have to make decisions negotiate their issues in the presence of a neutral facilitator called a mediator. Many family law mediators use a style of mediation called “interest based” which means that each spouse reveals what is important to him or her in terms of values, goals, and outcomes (for example—what is important to me, what I hope this divorce looks like, what are my worst fears, what are my highest hopes, etc.).
Yvonne Homeyer is a mediator whose office is located in Clayton. She works with spouses who want to use mediation to reach agreement on their divorce issues. Although Ms. Homeyer is also a lawyer, Ms. Homeyer does not provide legal advice when she is acting as a mediator.
During these three-way conversations (both spouses and the mediator), the mediator will guide the couple through the divorce issues that must be decided upon in order to meet the requirements of Missouri divorce law. If the couple gets “off track,” the mediator can guide them back to a more positive conversation.
In mediation, the couple will discuss their divorce-related issues. They can also discuss any other issues that are important to them and their family. For example, a couple in mediation may want to discuss continued future relationships with the other spouse’s family, how each spouse will introduce new “significant others” to the children, how the couple will keep each other informed as to what is happening with the children, and how the couple will handle future disagreements after the divorce.
During the mediation process, each spouse may wish to consult with an attorney to receive independent legal advice. In family law mediation, those attorneys usually do not attend the mediation sessions, although they can if their clients want them to.
Once the spouses have reached agreement on all the issues, it is time to get the terms of their agreement put in writing. If the mediator is an attorney, then the mediator will prepare the Settlement Agreement (also called a Separation Agreement) and, if there are children of the marriage, a Parenting Plan. After both spouses have signed these documents, one of them (designated as the Petitioner) will file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The Mediator will not prepare these additional legal documents. The parties may represent themselves (called “pro se” representation) or the parties may use attorneys. Often, only the Petitioner will hire an attorney. The Mediator cannot serve as the attorney or handle the court process at the end of the mediation.
The Mediation model may be a good choice for couples who feel comfortable negotiating in the presence of the other spouse and do not need an attorney at their side during the negotiations. Some couples negotiate all the issues for the entire divorce in mediation and other couples use a mediator to reach agreement just on specific issues. It is possible to work with a mediator even if a contested court proceeding is pending.
If real estate, retirement pensions, or other deferred compensation accounts are involved, then legal documents such as deeds and Qualified Domestic Relations Orders may be needed. A consultation with an attorney during your mediation can alert you to the need for such documents. The mediator will not prepare such documents.
Mediation can be used not only in divorces but also for Legal Separation, Paternity matters, Motions to Modify (child support, custody, or maintenance), or any other family law matter.
Of course, there are no guarantees that a couple using mediation will reach an agreement that is acceptable to both of them.