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Should I Mediate My Divorce?

It depends.

Why Mediate a Divorce?

When a couple files for a divorce, usually there are a lot of angry feelings. The tendency is to want to fight for every conceivable advantage. That is why you hire a lawyer, right? Well, yes and no. You hire a lawyer to fight for your rights, but also to advise you as to the best course of action to take, all the ramifications that certain actions will have and how to achieve the best possible results. Your attorney will likely inform you that mediation is the best way to go. Why?

Mediation May Be Required

Many states, including Illinois, require mediation in certain cases. In Illinois, mediation may be mandatory where child custody is an issue. Research has shown that parents who mediate custody and visitation issues are more likely to stick to those parenting plans than parents who have those issues decided by a judge. Therefore, parents are less likely to come back to court for contempt and modification actions down the road.  This mediation is ordered by the court and is free of cost.  It also happens after a divorce has already been filed. However, many of my clients who have participated in the court ordered mediation have found it to be of little use since it is compulsory and mediation works best when it is voluntary.

What is Private Mediation?

Private mediation usually occurs before a divorce has been filed.  The parties agree to a mediator, who is an impartial third party, and assists the couple in ironing out details of the divorce before it is even filed.  While mediation may not settle all matters, it can dramatically reduce the number of disputed issues.

What are the Advantages of Private Mediation?

Mediation Saves Time and Money

It is usual cheaper to settle a case than go to trial. Divorcing spouses are often surprised by how long it takes to get a trial date. It can take several months or even longer to get a trial date on the court’s docket. Mediating divorce agreements allow the issues to be resolved much faster than waiting for a court to decide. The more issues there are to decide and the more witnesses there are to present, the longer you will need for trial. This translates into more time and money you will need to pay in attorney’s fees and costs. Your attorney will charge you for the time spent preparing your case for court including interviewing witnesses gathering evidence and preparing financial statements as well as time for the actual trial. In addition, judges usually don’t issue a decision at the trial. The parties have to wait for the judge to review all the evidence and write a decision before learning how the case is resolved.

Mediation Lets the Parties Decide the Outcome

When the parties mediate a settlement agreement, they get to fashion the way a case is decided. The parties can agree to property and debt divisions, custody and visitation and other issues in a way that makes the most sense for them. They can come up with creative solutions that a judge would never consider. When parties go to trial, they are often surprised by the way a judge decides the case. They don’t understand that judges will not take into account their hurt feelings or the other party’s bad behavior in awarding custody or diving marital assets. In mediation, the parties have the ability to voice their feelings. Often, being able to express those feelings help the parties to be able to move past them and come to mutually beneficial decisions, which is especially important when issues about children are decided.

Why Mediate an Agreement Before Filing for a Divorce?

Parties who agree on all the issues can file an uncontested divorce. This will save them time in getting a final divorce decree and save them lawyers’ fees, although they will still need to have an attorney review their agreement and help them file the necessary documents with the court. Parties who have been to mediation prior to filing for divorce may have fewer issues to litigate or have their attorneys negotiate and therefore less costs, even if they have not settled all issues.

Getting Started With Mediation

If you are ready to get started, you can call me now at 708-466-6912 or contact me online. I often meet clients in the evening and on weekends, and all clients get my personal mobile phone number.

 

About the author: Attorney Rhonda Stuart has over 20 years’ experience handling complex divorce and family law matters for a diverse client base. Her client philosophy is settle if possible; litigate if necessary. All clients receive her personal attention.