Local Court Rule
68.8 Custody/Visitation Mediation

68.8.1 The Family Court encourages the amicable resolution of custody and visitation issues through mediation as a method of focusing the attention of the parties on the best interest of the child. In every dissolution of marriage, legal separation or paternity action in which there are contested issues of custody and/or visitation, the parties (except for the State of Missouri) shall complete mediation, as provided in Supreme Court Rule 88.02-88.08 and this rule, prior to the filing of a motion for trial setting. Any motion for trial setting shall include an averment that mediation has been completed, or that there are no contested issues regarding custody or visitation of minor children, or that the case has been excluded or exempted from mandatory mediation as provided by this rule.

68.8.2 Parties may arrange for mediation privately, may apply to the court for an order of mediation, or may request services through the Family Court mediation program by contacting the Director of Office of Dispute Resolution Services to determine eligibility. To insure that mediation is available to all parties, regardless of financial standing; the Family Court Mediation Program shall provide services based on the income of the parties in accordance with guidelines established by the Office of Dispute Resolution Services and approved by the court en banc. Parties seeking to participate in the Family Court Mediation Program shall submit income information to the administrator of the Office of Dispute Resolution Services on the form designated for that purpose. Intake procedures performed by the Office of Dispute Resolution Services to screen parties for mediation and to arrange for the delivery of services, with the exception of reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect, shall be considered part of the mediation proceedings and treated as confidential under Supreme Court rule 88.08.

68.8.3 The Family Court Office of Dispute Resolution Services shall maintain a copy of The Missouri Bar Dispute Resolution Neutrals List and a list of mediators who are currently contracting to provide services through Family Court sponsored mediation programs who meet the qualifications under Supreme Court Rule 88.05. The lists shall be made available to all parties upon request.

68.8.4 Any party, upon the expiration of thirty (30) days from the date responsive pleadings are due on the original petition or upon the expiration of sixty (60) days from the date of service when no responsive pleading is required, may file a motion requesting the Court to order mediation in the matter. Movant may name a mediator in the request. Each party may petition the Court to disqualify one mediator without stating cause within fifteen (15) days of the designation of the mediator. Thereafter disqualification of a mediator shall be for cause shown. If the parties are unable to agree on a mediator, the court will appoint a mediator. The mediator shall advise the Court of any fact bearing upon a conflict of interest or bias, or any other facts that would be reason for his or her disqualification. If the Court disqualifies a mediator, an order shall be entered naming a qualified replacement. Nothing shall limit a mediator's ability to refuse assignment of any mediation under this rule.

68.8.5 Some cases may be inappropriate for mediation, which may include those with a history of child abuse or neglect or domestic violence. The Court appointed mediator, and the Office of Dispute Resolution Services in the case of matters participating in the court sponsored mediation program, shall screen the parties prior to conducting mediation sessions. If the case is deemed inappropriate for mediation, the mediator or program director shall immediately file the Notice of Mediation Compliance form with the Court.

68.8.6 Any party may request the court to waive the mediation requirement for good cause shown. "Good cause" may be established by specific averments showing that the case is not suitable for mediation, or at the request of any party, the court may refer the case for screening to determine the appropriateness of mediation. Screening procedures performed by the Office of Dispute Resolution Services shall be confidential pursuant to Supreme Court rule 88.08. The pre-screening report shall indicate only whether mediation is or is not appropriate.

68.8.7 A mediator assigned to provide services in a case by the court or a court-sponsored program shall give the parties and their counsel of record advance notice in writing of the time and place of the initial mediation session. Any mediation beyond the initial two hours shall proceed by mutual agreement of the parties. Counsel for any party may attend the mediation sessions, but shall first notify the mediator and all counsel of record of his or her intent to attend. If counsel for any party desires to attend after receipt of such notice, but is unavailable on the scheduled date, the mediation shall be rescheduled at a time convenient to all parties and counsel. Counsel and clients may communicate privately at any time during the mediation process. The guardian ad litem for a minor child, if one has been appointed, shall be considered a party to the proceeding and may participate as a party in the mediation process. The mediator shall provide the Court and counsel of record with a copy of the Notice of Mediation Compliance signed by the mediator at the termination of mediation.

68.8.8 The confidentiality provisions of Rule 88.08 shall apply to mediations undertaken to comply with this rule. Any mediator who is required by statute or program guidelines to report reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect shall so advise the parties and counsel in writing upon appointment. Except for the completion of the Notice of Compliance, the mediator shall make no other disclosures of a confidential nature during or at the conclusion of mediation without the consent of all participants. The identity of the party who terminates mediation shall not be disclosed.