Guide to Divorce Mediation in Illinois

Updated on 08/20/2021 / Under

Divorce can cause a major financial and emotional toll on spouses and their children. However, for spouses who will work together and settle their dissolution of marriage, mediation offers a way to reduce costs and resolve their differences peacefully. However, it's imperative to note that the divorce mediation process isn't for every couple. To find out if mediation is right for you, it's essential to speak with an experienced family law attorney.

At Ktenas Law, we're committed to helping our clients find the most effective and cost-efficient way to resolve their family law matters. For most divorcing spouses, mediation services are a viable option. Attorney Alex Ktenas is a professional mediator with extensive experience and in-depth knowledge of mediation practice. He provides court-ordered divorce mediation in Illinois, primarily in DuPage County, Kane County, Lake County, Cook County, and he is also available for private divorce mediations. To schedule a free initial consultation, contact our family law firm today at (312) 756-8652.

What is Divorce Mediation?

Divorce mediation is one of the many options of alternative dispute resolution available to couples in Illinois seeking to resolve issues involving either a divorce, property division or parenting issues. Other alternatives to traditional litigation include cooperative divorce, collaborative divorce, and arbitration.  

​During Illinois divorce, family, or child custody mediation, the divorcing parties cooperate to resolve conflicts and reach a marital settlement agreement concerning family law matters, such as child custody disputes, child support issues, spousal maintenance, and division of marital assets and liabilities with the help of a neutral third-party mediator who:

  • Helps the parties define their family law issues;
  • Facilitates communication between the divorcing spouses; and
  • Helps the parties negotiate mutually agreeable solutions.

What is Discussed in Mediation?

Divorcing parties can use mediation to discuss many issues. You and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse can discuss your concerns about legal matters such as legal custody, parenting time, division of marital property, and child support. You can talk about daily child care, including who will drive your children to soccer practice or dance class, or who will pick them up after school.

Guide to Divorce Mediation in Illinois

Also, you can also discuss long-term arrangements for medical care, school, and summer vacation schedules. Typically, mediation provides an avenue to work out financial issues, how specific parenting responsibilities and decisions will be handled, and other details related to the care of your kids. Our legal team has helped thousands of divorcing couples solve their family conflicts and we can help you too. Contact our Chicago law office today at (312) 756-8652 to learn how our experienced family mediators can help.

Are Communications in Divorce Mediation Privileged and Confidential?

​Illinois follows the Uniform Mediation Act, which provides for discovery and evidentiary privilege for all communications that take place during mediation. However, there are a few exceptions to this requirement regarding confidentiality. The family mediation privilege doesn't extend to:

  • ‍Use of mediation to commit crimes;
  • Threats of bodily injury; 
  • Communications provided to prove substance abuse, neglect, abandonment, or domestic violence in a proceeding where a child or adult protective services is a party unless the family law court refers the case to mediation and the public agency takes part. 

‍ It's illegal for mediators to report to the court unless when communicating if the mediation process has occurred, whether a settlement agreement was reached, and who attended the mediation. 

How Does Divorce Mediation Work in Illinois?

In Illinois, divorce mediation can be conducted publicly or privately, depending on whether the spouses choose to mediate first or hire divorce attorneys first. If you take the preferred path and opt for mediation first, you will hire an experienced mediator before you file with the family law court.

Your divorce mediator will guide you through their comprehensive mediation process where he or she will help you identify, discuss, negotiate and resolve all the challenging issues surrounding your divorce privately, confidentially, and without engaging family law attorneys if you so choose. The family mediator will also draft your agreement, also known as a Memorandum of Understanding, and then, upon completion of the mediation process, you'd complete your divorce process through the courts.

However, if you choose to go hire a divorce attorney first, you'll most probably be sent to a family law court-ordered mediation process. Most counties in Illinois now have court-ordered mediation proceedings where you and your spouse will be required to engage in child custody and parenting time mediation and a financial mediation session now offered through the family law courts.

Related: 11 Signs You Need a Divorce

And while we always support all the couples who choose divorce mediation, regardless of what route they take to reach an agreeable resolution, there are many shortcomings that come with choosing the court-ordered mediation route:

  • First, you don’t get to choose your family law mediator like you would with private mediation. This means you could end up with a divorce mediator you don’t like, or you’re not comfortable working with.
  • Second, the approved divorce mediators on the family law court roster might not be the most experienced. The only requirement to become a court-ordered mediator in Illinois is to take a 40-hour training class. Thus, many beginner mediators get their fresh start mediating for the courts and have little or no "real-world" experience.
  • Finally, what if your legal battles are very complicated such that even if the court-ordered divorce mediator isn't fresh out of training, they lack enough experience handling unique issues like yours? Here, divorce mediation is a waste of time and you’ll have to wait months for a court date. When you could have resolved all of your family law issues in a "private" mediation process with an experienced family mediator long before that.

What are the Benefits of Divorce Mediation?

Deciding family law issues through mediation has several benefits when compared to divorce litigation:

  • The parties to a mediation process view the mediation process as more responsive to their family needs than the litigation process. That's because the parties to a mediation have more direct control over the mediation process. 
  • The divorce mediation process creates a personalized solution for the family, as opposed to a "win" or "lose" outcome in divorce litigation.  
  • Parties are more likely to comply with agreements reached through mediation compared to court orders reached through litigation. Also, agreement through mediation is less likely to be re-litigated by the spouses at a later date. 
  • Mediation agreements resolve matters concerning divorce and parenting earlier in the process than traditional litigation, which is less stressful on the family.  
  • The divorce mediation process is confidential, while litigation makes many personal matters public. The mediation parties can speak freely, raise their concerns, consider alternatives, and even apologize to each other without their statements being used against them in court. 
  • The family mediation process is more cost-effective than divorce litigation because the spouses can resolve many of their legal matters directly without the need to pay family law attorneys to litigate the issues in court. 
A couple meeting with a divorce mediator

What if Divorce Mediation is Unsuccessful in Finding a Resolution?

Even if you can't agree through a mediation agreement, the mediation process can be beneficial. The mediation process defines the outstanding issues for the divorcing parties and gives the spouses an understanding of their potential options. It's common for marital agreements to be reached through the parties' divorce attorneys on outstanding issues shortly after the completion of mediation. 

Divorce is always stressful for parents and their children. However, with mediation, you can reduce the stress on your family and complete the divorce process more quickly and affordably. Our experienced family law mediators have helped many couples in Chicago and throughout Illinois resolve their divorce and other family issues through mediation.

Our legal team has helped thousands of divorcing couples in DuPage County, Cook County, Lake County, Kane County, Kendall County, Will County, and throughout Illinois find an amicable resolution to their complex issues and we can help you too. To schedule a free initial consultation, contact our family law firm today at (312) 756-8652, or through our contact form to learn how we can help.  

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