Illinois Family Mediation Explained | Illinois Divorce Mediation | Child Custody Mediation in Illinois
What is Family Mediation?
In Illinois family, divorce, and child custody mediation, the parties cooperate to resolve conflicts and reach an agreement regarding issues of child custody, child support, spousal maintenance (alimony), and division of marital assets and liabilities with the assistance of a neutral third party mediator who is responsible for:
Voluntary Mediation vs. Court Ordered Mediation
Mediation may be initiated voluntarily by the parties at any stage of their case, even before filing for divorce. It may also be ordered by the court in a domestic relations case. Even if the parties attend mediation because they were ordered to do so by the court, any resulting agreement as a result of the mediation is voluntary.
All of the circuit courts in Illinois have mandatory mediation programs for cases involving child custody or visitation issues. However, parties can be excused from mediation if the court determines that an impediment to mediation exists, such as domestic violence.
In cases in which mediation is mandatory, Illinois Supreme Court Rule 923 requires that an initial case-management conference will be held within 90 days of the service of the petition or complaint. If, at the time of the initial case management conference, the parties are not in agreement regarding a parenting plan, the court will schedule the case for mediation. Within 30 days after the mediation is complete, a full case-management conference will be held.
Local court rules vary regarding the minimum number of mediation sessions, the time period required for each sessions, how impediments to mediation and exceptions are to be handled, and provisions for confidentiality. In Cook County, the court will assign a mediator and the parties are not required to pay a fee. In other counties, the parties generally select their own mediator and are responsible for the mediator's fee. In these counties, the court may apportion the fee between the parties, select the mediator if the parties are unable to select their own, or order the mediator to perform pro bono work.
The Role of the Mediator in Illinois Family Mediation
According to the Model Standards of Practice for Family and Divorce Mediation, the “primary role of a family mediator is to assist the participants to gain a better understanding of their own needs and interests and the needs and interests of [their children] . . . and to facilitate agreement among the participants.”
Unlike family law and divorce litigation, the mediation process is private. Discussions during mediation are privileged and confidential.
The Role of Attorneys in Illinois Family mediation
Typically, in family law mediation, each party is represented by his or her own attorney. However, if the process is initiated voluntarily prior to the filing of a case in court, some couples choose to undergo the mediation process without an attorney. Even in a voluntary mediation, it is helpful for each party to retain his or her own attorney in order to facilitate the process. Attorneys are especially important when an imbalance of power exists between the parties. Should the parties choose not to retain attorneys for the mediation process, an attorney will ultimately be necessary to file the results of the mediation in court and obtain a final order in the case.
The Role of Experts in Illinois Family Mediation
Many participants in mediation will choose to retain advisors and experts, such as financial advisors, accountants, and therapists, to ensure that both parties and the mediators are fully informed of the facts when deciding the issues involved in their case. Unlike litigation, the parties may choose to jointly retain neutral experts whose opinions and statements will be priviliged and will not be used outside of mediation should the process fail.
Communications in Family Mediation are Privileged and Confidential
Illinois has adopted the Uniform Mediation Act, which provides for an evidentiary and discovery privilege for all communications occurring in the mediation. However, there are certain exceptions to this requirement of confidentiality. The mediation privilege does not extend to:
What are the Benefits of Mediation?
Deciding issues through mediation has several advantages when compared to litigation:
When is Family Mediation Inappropriate?
Family mediation, divorce mediation, and child custody mediation tends to be inappropriate when there is an imbalance of power between the parties, the threat of violence, concerns that one of the parties may not be mentally or emotionally competent, or when one of the parties is making unwelcome attempts to reconcile.
What should I discuss with the Mediator prior to Retaining Him or Her?
Selecting the right mediator is crucial. The parties should interview the mediator prior to retaining him or her and ask several questions:
Preparing for Mediation with Your Attorney
If you are retaining an attorney to represent you in the mediation, you should meet with your attorney before the process begins. Your attorney will explain what to expect from the mediation process, assist you in identifying your objectives, discuss the potential options for resolving the issues in your case, and assist you in preparing a strategy for dealing with contentious issues.
The Illinois Family Mediation process Explained
Every family mediator will have a slightly different approach to the mediation process. However, a family mediation will typically proceed as follows:
What if Mediation is Unsuccessful in Reaching an Agreement?
Even if you are unable to successfully reach an agreement through mediation, the process can be beneficial. The mediation process clarifies the outstanding issues for the parties and gives the parties an understanding of their potential options. It is common for agreements to be reached through the parties' attorneys on outstanding issues shortly after mediation.
Illinois Law Blog: Learn About Law
O’Flaherty Law is based in Downers Grove, Elmhurst, and Naperville, Illinois. Our team has expertise in many areas of law including but not limited to bankruptcy law, business & corporate representation, civil litigation, criminal defense, estate planning, divorce & family law, immigration; probate, guardianship & elder law; and real estate law. If you have any questions or would like to schedule a free consultation, please e-mail us at email@example.com or call us at (630)324-6666.
Where You Can Read Us
O'Flaherty Law of Downers Grove
5002 Main Street, Ste. 201
Downers Grove, IL 60515
O'Flaherty Law of Downers Grove is open Monday thru Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM CST. We are available by appointment before or after our regular hours.
O'Flaherty Law has experience in legal services in the following legal practice areas: estate planning and probate; featuring wills and trusts, powers of attorney, living wills, estate tax avoidance and probate practice; real estate law; featuring commercial and residential sales and leases, foreclosure defense, short sales, REO closings and consent foreclosures, mechanic's liens and landlord and tenant disputes; family law; featuring divorces, child custody, child support, paternity, adoption and orders of protection; criminal law; featuring DUI, traffic and criminal defense; business representation; featuring entity selection, incorporation and s-corp election, bylaws and operating agreements, annual reports, annual meetings of shareholders, employment agreements, handbooks and warning and termination letters, business contracts, independent contractor agreements, trademarks and copyrights, regulation and licensing compliance and dissolution and mergers; business and personal bankruptcy; featuring Chapter 7, Chapter 11 and Chapter 13 cases; litigation; featuring commercial contract and tort law, employment and labor law, personal injury and collections; and immigration law.
Located in Downers Grove, Illinois, O'Flaherty Law serves DuPage County, Dekalb County, Will County, Cook County, Lake County, Kendall County, Kane County, McHenry County Winnebago County in Illinois, as well as the following cities: Wheaton, Naperville, Woodridge, Downers Grove, Darien, Willowbrook, Westmont, Lisle, Oak Brook, Warrenville, Glen Ellyn, Aurora, North Aurora, Batavia, Geneva, St. Charles, Lemont, Joliet, Bolingbrook, Plainfield, Crest Hill, Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, Northbrook, Highland Park and Chicago.
© 2015 by O'Flaherty Law. All rights reserved.