ARE YOU IN A CUSTODY BATTLE? NEW ST. LOUIS COUNTY RULE WILL REQUIRE YOU TO PARTICIPATE IN MEDIATION
Can’t agree with your child’s other parent about a custody schedule, or who the kids should live with? Before you ask the judge to make a decision, effective September 1, you will need to participate in 2 hours of custody mediation, to see if you can get the situation resolved between the two of you.
Many other counties in Missouri already have a custody mediation requirement, and it is a statewide rule in Illinois. Studies have shown that the parents are usually the best equipped to come up with a custody plan for their kids, and they are often able to do this with the assistance of a neutral mediator. If you and your ex can accomplish this, it will expedite your case, and save you thousands in attorney fees.
Below is the mandatory custody mediation rule.
If you are filing a case in St Louis County in which custody will be contested, please read it carefully, and make sure that your attorney is well versed in it as well.
ST. LOUIS COUNTY COURT RULE 68.14: MANDATORY MEDIATION
Mediation is defined as a confidential process in which a neutral facilitates settlement discussions between litigants. The neutral has no authority to make a decision or impose a settlement upon the litigants. The neutral focuses the attention of the litigants upon their needs and interests, rather than upon rights and positions. Settlement is entirely voluntary and, in the absence of settlement, the litigants do not lose their rights to a trial.
All litigants who have not reached agreement on custody and visitation issues as evidenced by a signed and filed parenting plan are required to use mediation. The parties shall participate, in good faith, in a minimum of two hours of mediation.
Litigants may make an application for an exemption, for good cause, including, but not limited to, allegations of domestic violence, from this rule using Form 15, as provided in paragraph 3 below.
This rule may be complied with as follows:
- Litigants may jointly and voluntarily agree upon a mediator who is on the St. Louis County Family Court approved mediator list to conduct confidential mediation;
- The Court may order litigants to mediation with a mediator on the St. Louis County Court approved mediator list to conduct confidential mediation; OR
- Litigants may be ordered to work with Domestic Relations Services in St. Louis County Family Court for the purposes of screening and evaluation of their parenting plan. The use of Domestic Relations Services is not confidential.
PARAGRAPH 3: FORM 15
Ninety (90) days from the date of original service of summons or the filing of an entry of appearance or after a finding of paternity, the litigants shall file a Form 15 with the Court certifying that: (a) there are no issues of custody and visitation and/or a parenting plan has been signed and filed; (b) that the litigants have voluntarily participated in mediation; (c) that the litigants have agreed to a mediator (identifying the mediator) and have a mediation session scheduled; (d) that the parties cannot agree on a mediator and require the Court to order mediation, if the Court deems it appropriate, OR (e) that they are requesting an exemption from this rule.
In the event that the parties have not voluntarily engaged in mediation and an exemption has not been granted, the Court may order the parties to participate in mediation and appoint a mediator from the Court approved mediator list, OR may refer the parties to Domestic Relations Services.
In all actions, the mediation process must be completed and/or scheduled with the mediator and the Form 15 filed with the Court no later than the date of the first settlement conference.
If you have questions about the new mandatory custody mediation rule in St. Louis County, contact an experienced family law attorney.