Mediation and Its Role in Family Law

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a confidential process in which a neutral third party assists the parties in reaching a mutually acceptable agreement. Mediators do not advise, take sides or render a judgment. The mediator can meet, or caucus, with parties and counsel them individually regarding underlying issues and concerns. The mediator’s goal is to open the communication between the parties so that they discuss options and alternatives that would result in a mutually beneficial agreement.

How is Mediation Utilized in Family Law?

All of the circuit courts in Illinois have mandatory mediation programs for cases involving the allocation of parental responsibilities or parenting time issues (formally custody and visitation). Even if the parties attend mediation because they were ordered to do so by the court, any agreement as a result of the mediation is voluntary.

Mediation may be initiated by the parties at any stage of their case, even before filing for divorce. Mediation helps parties discuss initial parenting agreements, changes to parenting agreements, as well as issues of child support and other divorce-related financial issues. The topics addressed in mediation can include communication, parenting time schedules, child support, education decisions and expenses, healthcare decisions and expenses, religious affiliation and extracurricular activities. The mediator assists in creating a parenting plan that is agreeable for the parties.

What are the Benefits of Mediation?

Unlike a judge or an arbitrator whose decisions cause one party to win and the other party to lose, mediation is about finding a solution that works for both parties. A mediated settlement can save parties significant time, legal fees, and effort. Mediation is a private and confidential process. Even if there is no agreement at the end of a mediation, there is no negative affect on the court case.