Illinois Divorce Mediation
In Illinois, divorce mediation is a negotiation process that lets you take control of your divorce. The neutral, third-party mediator facilitates negotiations around property division, parenting time, and any other issues resolved during the divorce process. The mediation process cannot finalize a divorce, but it can bring you to the final stages.
Divorce mediation is both cost-effective and focuses on jointly resolving issues. The divorcing couple splits the cost of the mediator and the whole process focuses on creating a mutually agreed-upon plan. If this is something you’re interested in, keep reading–
Key Takeaways of Mediation
- Mediation is faster and cheaper.
- Mediation gives you more decision-making power.
- Mediation cannot finalize a divorce.
- Mediation is not for everyone.
- Mediators help both parties work through their legal issues and the legal process.
- Mediators cannot represent either party or provide legal advice.
What Divorce Mediation Means in Illinois
In Illinois, divorce mediation is a way for divorcing spouses to settle issues outside of the courtroom. Instead, a mediator facilitates communication and negotiations between divorcing parties.
The final goal of mediation is for both parties to reach a voluntary agreement on all divorce issues. The mediator also informs both parties of relevant laws along the way. They explain the laws and help parties come to an agreement, but they cannot favor one party over the other.
The mediator is a neutral third party, not your attorney. In fact, it is often helpful for each person to have an attorney to consult with outside of the mediation room. Mediation is best for people who want an easier divorce and think they can work with their spouse. If parties can’t agree in mediation, they go through the litigation process.
Mediation vs Litigation
Mediation is the opposite of litigation. Litigation is the standard court process where spouses and their attorneys go back and forth on every topic trying to get what they can from each other. For this reason, litigation is generally a longer and more contentious process.
If parties can’t agree after litigation, the judge decides for them. Mediation protects against having a judge decide your future.
Mediation vs Uncontested
An uncontested or cooperative divorce is when parties file together. It is uncontested because they already agree on everything and don’t need a mediator’s help.
Is Mediation Right for You?
Mediation is not for everyone. In mediation, you need to be able to work through issues and come to an agreement with the other party. This means that mediation is not good for couples that have an unbalanced power dynamic. For example, mediation is not a good idea when there has been any form of abuse.
The mediator will act as a buffer, but if a party needs extra support, the mediator cannot be their advocate. If you think you and your spouse can work together, there are benefits to choosing mediation.
The Pros of Mediation
- Cheaper – Mediation is cheaper because there are usually fewer fees, and parties split the cost of the mediator.
- Quicker – Any court process takes a long time, so needing the court less means a faster process. Plus, less fighting makes it go quicker.
- More Control – You decide how to resolve the issues, not a judge.
- Clarity – A mediator helps you through the process.
- Privacy – Discussions in mediation are privileged and confidential, unlike in litigation. Plus, there is a voluntary exchange of information.
The Cons of Mediation
- Hiding Assets – Hidden assets are harder to find because parties give each other information voluntarily.
- Fragile – Any party can back out of mediation at any time, causing you to lose money and time.
- Abuse – If the relationship is unhealthy, it can be easier for a spouse to get manipulated. Having an outside attorney helps protect against manipulation.
- No Licensure – Mediators do not need a license to practice mediation in Illinois. So, if you don't do your research, the mediator could be untrained.
Voluntary Mediation vs Court Ordered Mediation
Most family law cases include some form of mediation whether voluntary or court ordered. Voluntary mediation is mediation that you choose to do on your own, such as through Sterling Lawyers, LLC. Court ordered mediation is mediation that the court requires you to do.
The court requires mediation in many family law cases, such as cases that involve a child. In some cases, a judge will waive court ordered mediation. This only happens when there is a significant impairment to a party’s ability to participate. For example, the court won't make parties mediate if there is a history of abuse.
Even if you know you won’t agree on everything, mediation can still be beneficial. If you find anything to agree on, it helps your divorce end quicker. It is also important to know that you don’t have to agree to anything in mediation. Even within mediation, there are different approaches.
Other Types of Mediation
Different types of mediation are appropriate in different situations. If the divorce is relatively simple, you may only need standard mediation where it is just the mediator and the divorcing parties.
Another option is attorney-assisted mediation where each party has an attorney to help them. In this form, the attorneys attend each session and are directly involved. This is great for people who want more legal support since the mediator cannot give legal advice.
Another alternative dispute method available in Illinois is collaborative divorce. In collaborative divorce, each party’s attorney is specifically trained in the collaborative divorce process.
Are you ready to move forward? Call (312) 757-8082 to schedule a strategy session with one of our attorneys.
The Mediation Process
All successful mediations end by creating a Memorandum of Understanding. This document details how parties will address each of the divorce issues.
Issues Resolved in Mediation
Every mediation is unique because everyone’s situation is unique–some have additional children, some have additional property, and some have additional debt. It doesn’t matter what order you make your decisions in, but mediation must address every aspect of divorce:
- Property Division (Assets and Debts)
- Maintenance (Alimony)
- Parental Responsibilities (Custody)
- Parenting Time (Placement)
- Child Support
- Future Communication
Each issue needs to be addressed to its fullest extent. Some issues are harder than others, so some disagreements will occur. But that’s why the mediator is there.
Specifics on Mediation Sessions
Mediation sessions are private, only the divorcing parties and the mediator attend. Sessions can last between an hour or two hours or even longer. Some people prefer longer sessions to get it faster while others prefer shorter sessions to have more time to prepare.
Information to Prepare for Mediation
Each session will have a predetermined topic. A good mediator will tell you what you need for each session. But below is a list of some important information you will need throughout the sessions:
- Your Calendar
- Court Documents
- Contact Information
- List of Assets and Debts
- Financial Statements
- List of Personal Needs and Wants
Except for special situations, any information discussed in mediation is kept private.
Communication during mediation is privileged which means it cannot be used as evidence later in the case. However, there are types of non-confidential information, such as–
- information within a signed agreement;
- information available under the Freedom of Information Act;
- a threat to inflict harm or to commit a crime;
- the planning of, attempt of, or concealment of a crime;
- proof of a mediator’s professional misconduct or malpractice; or
- information needed to prove or disprove abuse, neglect, abandonment, or exploitation.
Even if there is communication that is non-confidential for one of these reasons, the rest of the communication remains privileged.
Is a Mediated Agreement Binding?
A mediation agreement is enforceable after a judge approves it. It may be enforceable before a judge signs it, but it depends on the specific clauses in the agreement.
For example, there could be a provision requiring each party's attorney to review it first. The best thing to do is never sign an agreement you haven’t had your attorney review first.
How Long Will Mediation Take?
On average, mediation takes between three to eight sessions. That can vary based on things like the level of disagreement, the length of sessions, and the number of kids.
Once a Memorandum of Understanding is created, each party should have their attorney review it. After that, the proper paperwork can be prepared and filed with the court and a judge can finalize the divorce.
How Much Does Divorce Mediation Cost in Illinois?
Generally, mediation costs around $5,000 to $7,500. Many attorneys work on an hourly rate, but Sterling Lawyers, LLC works on a fixed fee. After your consultation, a Sterling Lawyers, LLC attorney tells you exactly how much it will cost to get you through the entirety of mediation.
Can My Divorce Lawyer Mediate My Divorce?
Your lawyer cannot mediate your divorce. The mediator must be a third party that does not have biases towards either party. And each party can have an attorney outside of mediation to help them through the process.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you use a mediator for divorce in Illinois?
You can use a mediator for divorce. They help you solve all the divorce issues, but they will not take you through the entirety of divorce. To finish the divorce after mediation, the agreement needs to be approved by a judge. The mediator also cannot prepare or file the paperwork.
If I use mediation, will I need to go to court?
If you complete mediation, you will still need to go to court. The court still needs to approve the divorce, but mediation takes out the hardest parts.
What are the disadvantages of mediation?
The biggest disadvantage to mediation is that any party can stop it at any time. Stopping mediation means you lose your progress and have to go through the litigation process.
Who pays for mediation costs?
Both parties share the cost of mediation. But, for court-ordered mediation, sometimes the county pays for it. The cost of a divorce will depend on the specifics of your case, but mediation is usually one of the most cost-effective ways to get a divorce.
What's a divorce mediator?
A divorce mediator is a third-party person that facilitates conversations between divorcing parties. The mediator's goal is to reach an agreement that both parties are happy with. Usually, you want a mediator to be a lawyer or social worker, but Illinois does not require any license.
Is mediation a good idea in divorce?
Mediation is a great idea for divorcing parties if they can work together. The outcomes of mediation are usually better because people are much more likely to follow the agreements they created. But mediation is not good for relationships that are toxic or have a power imbalance.
How do I prepare for divorce mediation?
The best way to prepare for mediation is to collect your documents and decide what is most important to you. A positive mediation will balance your needs with your soon-to-be ex’s needs.
You will have to figure all the money stuff out as well as divide the responsibilities of any children. Be emotionally prepared and mentally prepared for hard conversations.