Skipping Court: Divorce Mediation

While there are always questions to be worked out during divorce, it is not always the case that it must be done in court. Many couples are instead choosing divorce mediation or other methods of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) to resolve issues like child custody, spousal support and division of the marital estate. Such an approach saves both time and money, and is often less confrontational than court proceedings. If your divorce is amicable enough to sit down with your spouse and a mediator, mediation may be a very good option for you.

Benefits of Mediation

ADR is exactly what it sounds like – an alternative way of resolving issues without going through litigation – and mediation is probably the most common form. Usually, a trained mediator (who may also be an attorney) will sit down with the opposing parties and help guide them step by step through the issues at hand. Mediation is governed in Illinois by the Uniform Mediation Act, which lays out rules for how a mediation is to be conducted, who many conduct it, and the degree of privacy allowed to the parties and their agreement. In Illinois, the UMA renders most mediation agreements privileged, with certain exceptions.

Mediation is much more hands-on than sitting in court and allowing attorneys to hash out an agreement; the parties are usually the ones making the decisions, with only impartial guidance from the mediator. This can be frightening to some, as mediation lacks the proverbial safety net of trained attorneys guiding every decision. However, the advantages to mediation are many, and for many couples they outweigh the reasons to go to court.

The most obvious advantage to mediation is that unlike relying on an agreement arrived at by your attorneys, a mediation agreement is crafted by you, in your own words. Mediation agreements are less disputed than court settlements simply because the parties have more sway in creating them.

Mediation may also move as fast as the parties want it to move; some prefer to move slowly and examine every single facet of everything, while other parties prefer mediation because it can be decided much faster than litigation in the understaffed, slow court system. Controlling the language and the tempo of your divorce decree through mediation can make life easier for both parties and also for their children, who are much less likely to be subjected to parental upheaval and unpleasantness. If the parties are able to negotiate all the issues in private mediation, then in theory the only time that going to court would be necessary would be to file the agreement.

Mediation is, however, not for everyone. The parties must be able to sit down and discuss differences; if there are issues like potential abuse, or if one spouse is simply unable to conduct themselves appropriately in the other’s presence, mediation will quickly derail. Also, lawyers are the best option if one spouse is somehow compromised, by addiction, illness or mental difficulties, for example. Mediation is about both parties being able to advocate for themselves, and if one spouse cannot do that, it is less likely that the agreement will be upheld, either by a court or as a private contract.

An Illinois Divorce Attorney Can Help

If you are interested in learning more about mediation for your divorce, please do not hesitate to contact the Wheaton family law firm of Sullivan, Taylor & Gumina P.C. today.