If you are currently in the midst of a divorce or other proceeding involving child custody, visitation, or division of assets, then you are likely familiar with the term “mediation.” While the term may conjure up images of corporate board rooms, family mediation in Illinois is actually a much different process.  Understanding what happens during a family mediation can make you more confident going into the process and help you receive all the benefits that a mediation can offer.

Mediation is used as an alternative to a litigated divorce.  It can be entered into both voluntarily or by court order. In fact, every Illinois circuit court has a mandatory mediation program for proceedings involving child custody or visitation issues.  However, this typically mandatory attempt at mediation may be excused if the court finds there are serious reasons that would make the process futile.  For example, courts may waive the mediation process in cases involving domestic violence, mental impairment, and alcohol or drug abuse.[1]

During mediation, the parties work with a neutral third party, known as the mediator, whose purpose is to help the parties come to a mutual agreement.  Each party will be able to discuss any matters related to the divorce they feel need to be resolved.  Because mediation is a more personal process than most court proceeding, the parties are able to discuss things that they may not be able to fully address in a court. Anything brought up during the mediation process is confidential and cannot be held against either party later on if, for example, the parties are unable to reach an agreement and continue with a litigated case.  However, this privilege, like most, does have it limits and will not apply if waived or if a party uses mediation to attempt or commit a crime.[2]

After mediation has been completed, the mediator will provide a written account of any agreement reached.  The mediation itself is not binding and the parties are not required to reach an agreement. Any agreement must be entered as an order by the court before it carries any real weight.  Before the order is entered a judge will examine the agreement to make sure neither party is being taken advantage of and, if children are involved, that the agreement is in the best interest of the children.  If no agreement is reached, a judge will merely set the matter for further proceedings and the divorce will continue through the judicial process.

While mediation is not the solution for everyone, it does have its advantages. First, it can give the parties more of an opportunity to craft their own agreement. Also, it can allow the parties to craft a more personalized agreement as you have more leeway to explain why you feel or certain way.  Additionally, the mediation process can also save the parties time, money, and the emotional difficult of continued litigation.

For more information regarding the mediation process or other family matters, contact Sherer Law Offices at (618) 692-0626.


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