The Missouri Supreme Court describes mediation as "a process in which a neutral third party facilitates communications between the parties to promote settlement." Rule 17.01. A structured step-by-step approach is used to guide the parties to resolving issues such as child support, child custody, alimony, and property division. The process is intended to provide a neutral, protected environment to help explore and understand interests, needs, risks and options, ultimately resulting in agreement that suits both participants. Mediation may be used for one or more issues of the dispute and may result in the complete settlement of all issues.
Why Mediation is Successful
- Participants in mediation are invested in the resolution because they contributed.
- Specific needs and interests are addressed rather than following general standards used by the Court that may not fit everyone's satisfaction.
- Participants learn skills that are useful when resolving future disagreements.
Being friendly is not a necessary prerequisite for participation in mediation. However, mediation may not be appropriate for a party not willing to be honest, is mentally incompetent, is physically abusive or has fear of physical abuse.
At any time during the mediation, participants may consult with other professionals in order to discuss options. Whenever resolution is accomplished, the participants will be encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney to review the draft of the proposed agreement. The mediator does not offer legal advice or make the decisions for the participants.
Clients and their attorneys should not fear what might be discussed during a mediation session, with some specific exceptions, such as unreported child abuse or threats of serious harm. Missouri law at Section 435.014, Revised Statutes of Missouri protects the confidentiality of the mediation process. However, this law requires a written agreement to mediate between the parties. See attached a sample Agreement to Mediate. Court-ordered mediation pursuant to Rule 17 for civil cases in general and pursuant to Rule 88 for family law cases also protect the mediation process as confidential settlement negotiations.
Participating in the mediation process doesn't guarantee a quick and easy settlement, however, the topics of discussion that are addressed during mediation sessions often become the basis for a settlement later. Rather than a rushed negotiated settlement on the courthouse steps or a court-imposed order unsatisfactory to both sides, mediation can offer both the client and the attorney opportunities to maximize satisfactory and durable resolutions