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How to Prepare for Divorce Mediation in Illinois

Updated on
November 19, 2020
Article written by
Attorney Christine Hunt

In this articles we will explain how to prepare for divorce mediation in Illinois including:

  • Should I consult an attorney prior to beginning divorce mediation in Illinois?
  • What should I expect when entering into Illinois divorce mediation?
  • What do I need to know prior to an Illinois divorce mediation?
  • What documents should I bring with me to an Illinois divorce mediation?
  • What happens after an Illinois divorce mediation?

Mediation can help couples resolve their divorce in a quicker and less costly process than litigation. Additionally, with mediation, the parties retain control over the process and retain control over the outcome of the divorce. For couples who have chosen to proceed with the mediation process, there are some things they can do to increase their likelihood of mediation success. This article will explore how to prepare for divorce mediation in Illinois. To better understand what is mediation and whether mediation may be a good choice for you, see our article on Illinois Family Mediation Explained.

Should I consult an attorney prior to beginning divorce mediation in Illinois?

Consulting with an attorney prior to mediation can be extremely helpful. An attorney can advise you as to the range of possibilities that a judge might order if you proceeded with litigation. Your attorney can also advise you of your rights and responsibilities as it relates to your divorce. Having this information in advance of proceeding with mediation will give you the necessary tools to know whether or not you should enter into a settlement agreement. Your attorney can also advise you on the possible time, expense, and emotional toll of litigation. Consulting with an attorney prior to mediation also minimizes the chance of the parties reaching an agreement, having their attorneys review the agreement, one party realizing the range of outcomes if the case was litigated, and then the entire agreement unravels before it’s entered into a court order.

What should I expect when entering into Illinois divorce mediation?

It’s important to begin mediation with a cooperative mindset. If you come into the process being aggressive and disagreeable, mediation will likely fail. The premise behind choosing mediation over litigation is the parties want to engage in a collaborative process where they maintain control of the final outcome instead of a judge. Mediation is most successful when the parties can, with the help of the mediator, identify their mutual goals and interests and work together to reach a resolution that will address those goals and interests.

It’s also important to be mentally prepared for mediation to likely occur with the spouses being in the same room discussing their issues directly with each other with the assistance of the mediator. This face to face meeting can be emotionally charged for some people and some people are surprised at the range of emotions they experience while sitting in a room trying to work out a settlement to end their marriage. It is wise to be prepared to experience a number of different emotions during the mediation process.

What do I need to know prior to an Illinois divorce mediation?

Interests and Goals

Prior to beginning mediation, both parties should understand their interests. When establishing a list of interests, it’s important to understand the difference between a position and an interest. A position is a statement on where a party stands. An interest is the underlying reason or motivation for the position. Here is an example to illustrate the difference between an interest and a position: I want to have an active role in my child’s day to day activities including being able to help with homework during the week (interest) versus I want sole custody (position). A skilled mediator will be able to help tease apart interests from positions, but the process will be streamlined if the parties come to mediation with a better understanding of their interests instead of starting by taking positions on different issues. When trying to determine an interest instead of a position, ask yourself “why” you want something. That will usually result in an “interest” instead of a “position.”

Areas where you’re willing to compromise

Going into mediation, both parties should understand that it’s unlikely that they will each receive exactly what they want. There will likely be some level of give and take by both parties. As much as possible however, the parties should try to achieve a “win-win.” The traditional example of a win-win is two people are fighting over an orange. To compromise, the parties cut the orange in half and each party gets one half. On the surface, that seems like a fair compromise. However, it turns out one person wanted the orange peel to make zest and the other person wanted the pulp to make orange juice. Neither party needed the whole orange. The parties could have agreed that one person gets the peel and the other person gets the pulp. This is a compromise, but neither party loses out on what they want. This analogy can be applied when it comes to a divorce mediation. There may be a way to structure the agreement so tax liability is lowered and the balance sheet for both parties is increased. When it comes to parenting time, depending on the parties’ work schedule, it may be possible to structure a schedule where each party can maximize their time with their child while minimizing the amount of time in daycare or with a nanny. It’s important to realize that “compromise” does not always need to mean “lose out.”

For situations where there is no “win-win” available, each party should know what goals are their priority. Each party should know in advance what absolutely must be included in the agreement for a settlement to be reached.

When discussing compromise, it is essential to know your “walk away” point. This is where consulting with an attorney prior to mediation can be helpful. An attorney can advise you as to the range of possibilities that a judge might order. After taking into consideration the time, expense, and emotional toll of litigation, if what your attorney advised you was a likely outcome is far away from where you are in terms of mediation, you need to be willing to say mediation isn’t working and to proceed to litigation. Entering into the mediation with clear goals in mind can go a long way in having a successful divorce mediation.

What documents should I bring with me to an Illinois divorce mediation?

Ideally both parties will have done some “homework” in advance of the first mediation session. If financials are being addressed in mediation, this homework will include at minimum completing and exchanging a “financial affidavit” which is a state wide form used by courts that

details income, expenses, assets, and debts. You will want to have a clear understanding on what property, assets, and debts exist so you can start to discuss how those items will be handled. If mediation will be limited to children’s issues, you will need to make sure you have a firm grasp of your work schedule, your child’s school schedule, your child’s extracurricular schedule, and the schedule of any other personal obligations. Additionally, you should be aware of the costs involved in the child’s extracurricular activities, health insurance, unreimbursed medical, school expenses, and child care costs. If child support is at issue you also may want to consult with an attorney prior to mediation to have an idea of the amount of guideline child support.

What happens after an Illinois divorce mediation?

After a settlement agreement is reached, you should review the agreement with your attorney prior to having it entered by a court. If you met with an attorney prior to the mediation, you will already have had a good idea as to your legal rights and responsibilities going into the mediation. Having the attorney also review the settlement agreement prior to entry of the agreement into a court order will ensure you understand all the terms of the agreement, the terms of the agreement conform to your understanding of the agreement, and if you’ve waived any of your rights, that you fully understand what that means. An attorney can also ensure all aspects of a divorce that should be included in a settlement agreement are actually included in the agreement.


How to Prepare for Divorce Mediation in Illinois
Author

Attorney Christine Hunt

Christine has experience in family law including divorce, parentage, parenting time, parental allocation, child support, domestic violence, and post decree matters as well as estate planning and business law.

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Saturday

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Sunday

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