New Rule: Mandatory Mediation for St. Louis Area Custody and Visitation Disputes

There is a trend in required or mandatory mediation for contested cases of custody and visitation in the St. Louis area. Some Courts already have mandatory mediation and nearly every Court suggests mediation as an option to resolving a contested case.  Beginning September 1, 2021, divorcing parents who reside in St. Louis County must complete at least two hours of mediation to resolve custody or visitation rights issues.

The new St. Louis County Family Court Rule 68.14 mandates that any litigants who have not reached an agreement resulting in a signed parenting plan filed with the Court must use mediation in a “good faith effort” to resolve the issues.

Mediation is a confidential process that uses a skilled, neutral third party to facilitate settlement discussions between litigants. The mediator helps the parties focus on their needs and interests, and has no authority to make decisions or impose settlements upon the couple. While a settlement is desirable, it is not required. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, they may proceed to a trial.

Mediation creates a roadmap for solving problems constructively and helps families in several other ways. Benefits include:

  • Saving time: Mediation is faster than traditional litigation, which is dependent on scheduled hearings and filing dates.
  • Empowering: Mediation gives divorcing parents more control over the process and outcome.
  • Fostering cooperation: Mediation strives to model a positive environment for parents and children.

St. Louis County Family Court provides a list of approved mediators. The parties may pick the mediator of their choice from the list.

Failure to comply with the mandatory mediation rule “may include dismissal and or an award of attorney fees.” Either party may request an exemption, however “for good cause, including, but not limited to, allegations of domestic violence.”

Mandatory mediation already was the law in St. Charles, Jefferson and Lincoln Counties. In St. Louis City, it is suggested, but not required.

With a combined 30 years in family law, the attorneys at Jones Family Law Group, LLC, will provide the legal guidance you need. For questions or to schedule a confidential consultation, contact our team.