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What is the Mediation Process in Illinois Divorce Cases?

Mediation is a process of alternative dispute resolution that is often used in divorce cases in Illinois. It involves a neutral third party, known as a mediator, who facilitates negotiations between the divorcing parties with the goal of reaching a mutually acceptable agreement.

Mediation is voluntary and confidential, and the mediator does not have the power to make decisions for the parties. Instead, the mediator helps the parties identify the issues in their case, explore options for resolving those issues, and reach an agreement that is tailored to their specific needs and concerns.

In Illinois, mediation is often used in divorce cases because it offers several benefits over traditional litigation. First and foremost, mediation is generally less expensive than going to court. This is because the parties can often resolve their issues more efficiently and effectively in mediation than they can through a protracted court battle.

In addition, mediation is often less adversarial than litigation. In a court case, the parties are pitted against each other, with each trying to win at the expense of the other. This can lead to a lot of animosity and resentment, which can make it difficult to co-parent after the divorce is final. In mediation, the parties work together to find a solution that works for both of them, which can lead to a more amicable and respectful relationship after the divorce is final.

Finally, mediation allows the parties to have more control over the outcome of their case. In a court case, the judge makes the final decision about how to divide property, allocate parenting time and responsibilities, and set child support and maintenance. In mediation, the parties can come up with a creative and flexible solution that takes into account their unique circumstances and needs.

Mediation can be used for a wide variety of issues in a divorce case, including:

·         Property division: Mediation can help the parties divide their assets and debts in a way that is fair and equitable. This can include determining the value of assets, deciding how to divide property, and coming up with a plan for paying off debts.

·         Child custody and parenting time: Mediation can help the parties come up with a parenting plan that takes into account the best interests of the children. This can include deciding on a schedule for parenting time, determining who will make major decisions for the children, and coming up with a plan for resolving disputes in the future.

·         Child support: Mediation can help the parties determine an appropriate amount of child support based on the needs of the children and the financial resources of the parties.

·         Spousal maintenance: Mediation can help the parties come up with a plan for spousal maintenance (also known as alimony) that takes into account the needs of the receiving party and the ability of the paying party to pay.

In Illinois, there are several different types of mediation that can be used in a divorce case:

·         Court-connected mediation: This type of mediation is provided by the court and is often used in cases where the parties are unable to reach an agreement on their own. The court may order the parties to participate in mediation or may refer them to a mediator. The mediator is typically a court employee or a volunteer who has been trained in mediation.

·         Private mediation: Private mediation is conducted by a mediator who is hired by the parties or their attorneys. This type of mediation can be more flexible and can be tailored to the specific needs of the parties. Private mediation can be more expensive than court-connected mediation, but it can also be more effective in resolving complex issues.

·         Collaborative divorce: Collaborative divorce is a type of divorce where the parties and their attorneys agree to work together to reach an agreement without going to court. Collaborative divorce often involves the use of a neutral facilitator who helps the parties communicate effectively and negotiate a settlement.


Regardless of the type of mediation used, the process typically involves several stages. These stages include:

1.    Introduction: The mediator will introduce themselves and explain the mediation process. They will also establish ground rules for communication and behavior during the mediation session.

2.    Issue Identification: The mediator will ask the parties to identify the issues that need to be addressed in the mediation. They will also help the parties prioritize those issues and determine which issues are most important to address first.

3.    Information Gathering: The mediator will gather information from the parties about their needs, interests, and concerns. They may also ask for documentation, such as financial statements or parenting schedules, to help them understand the parties' situation.

4.    Negotiation: The parties will work together to explore options for resolving their issues. The mediator will help the parties evaluate these options and come up with creative solutions that meet the needs of both parties.

5.    Agreement: Once the parties have reached an agreement, the mediator will help them put that agreement in writing. The agreement will then be signed by both parties and, if applicable, submitted to the court for approval.

In Illinois, mediation can be a highly effective tool for resolving disputes in a divorce case. However, it is important to note that mediation may not be appropriate in all cases. For example, if there is a history of domestic violence or abuse, mediation may not be a safe option. In these cases, the parties may need to pursue other options for resolving their disputes, such as going to court.

If you are considering divorce in Illinois, it is important to understand your options for resolving disputes. Mediation can be a highly effective tool for reaching a mutually acceptable agreement, but it is important to work with an experienced mediator who can guide you through the process. With the help of a skilled mediator, you can work together with your spouse to find a solution that meets the needs of both parties and helps you move forward with your lives.