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What to Expect From Divorce Mediation in Illinois

On behalf of Joe Lucas at Lucas Law

When people hear the word "divorce," they usually conjure up images of couples engaged in acrimonious, protracted court battles over every item they own, from custody of the kids to alimony and maybe even who keeps the pets. However, couples in Illinois do not have to end their marriages with a fight in court. They can choose to go to divorce mediation and come to an agreement themselves on issues such as child custody, property division and spousal maintenance.

Mediation Process

Once a divorcing couple chooses to use a mediator, they schedule an appointment with the mediator of their choice. Each party to the divorce also typically brings an attorney to the meeting so that they fully understand their rights and the issues on the table. The first meeting lasts one to two hours, and the parties discuss the issues that the couple needs to resolve. They also collectively identify the information that each party will need to gather, such as financial data and expert appraisals, so that everyone is making informed decision during the process.

In successive sessions the mediator helps the couple reach agreements on the issues that they identified in the first meeting, keeping the conversation focused on resolving problems and offering information about how people typically reach agreement. Mediators are trained in helping people work through conflict, even when emotions are running high, as often is the case with divorcing couples. Even couples who consistently devolve into arguments when they try to communicate themselves often respond well to mediation.

A typical divorce agreement through mediation takes three or four two-hour sessions, spread over the course of a month. However, the process may take longer if there are particularly complex elements to the divorce.

Once the couple has reached an agreement, the mediator memorializes it in writing for each party to review and approve. Then the parties bring the agreement to their attorneys to begin filing the necessary documents with the court.

Benefits of Mediation

Choosing mediation over going to court can have many benefits for divorcing couples. A typical divorce can cost two to 10 times as much as using mediation.

Everything the parties say in these sessions is confidential, so if for some reason the mediation process breaks down, neither one can use what happened in mediation as evidence in a divorce hearing.

Additionally, couples who use mediation report less emotional trauma and a better ability to get along with their former spouses after the divorce. This can be particularly beneficial in situations where the parties will need to remain in contact to co-parent children after the divorce.

Mediation Is Not for Everyone

There are certain situations where couples should not use mediation, such as when there is abuse in the relationship or one of the parties is chemically dependent. Those considering mediation should consult an attorney to discuss their options.

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