Nearly half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce, and the majority will be successfully settled outside of the courtroom. Divorce mediation is one of the most commonly used tools to help couples determine the outcome of their divorce. Mediation allows couples to sit down with a neutral third-party mediator to work through the issues present in their divorce proceeding and work together to reach an agreement on the terms.
Whatever terms you agree to during mediation will be legally binding so long as they adhere to Illinois law. Due to this, it is in your best interest to work with an experienced divorce attorney during the mediation process to ensure that your best interests are protected. Our skilled and dedicated family lawyers at Tommalieh Law have helped many couples work through divorce mediation and will know the best way to approach your particular case. Call us today or book an appointment online to meet with us for a free initial case consultation.
What is Divorce Mediation?
Mediation is a step in the divorce process that allows couples to work with a professional, neutral third-party mediator in order to reach mutually agreeable terms on their divorce. These meetings most commonly take place in the mediator's office, but some will also allow you to run them virtually. No matter where your mediation takes place it is a confidential process.
During the mediation process, the couple will work with the mediator to reach a settlement on any issues in the divorce process. Common issues mediators can help you work through include child custody, child support, and division of marital assets. Once an agreement has been reached on these points a binding settlement will be drawn up and signed by each party.
The settlement will be filed with the court after it has been completed and signed. If there are no lingering issues that could not be resolved the divorce can proceed as uncontested, which will speed up the process considerably. Any issues that could not be agreed on during mediation will need to be settled in court during a divorce hearing.
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Advantages of Divorce Mediation
There are a number of significant benefits of divorce mediation for couples that can make the best use of it. Couples that are able to maintain an amicable relationship throughout the divorce process will usually be in the strongest position to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by divorce mediation. Some of the most substantial benefits of mediation include:
Greater Control Over the Outcome
One of the biggest advantages of managing your divorce through mediation is the amount of control you have over the final product. If your divorce is settled in court the outcome is left to the judge presiding over your case. They will set the custody agreement, determine what child support payments will be made, and decide how your assets will be divided based on the information they receive during the hearing.
During mediation, you and your ex will work with the mediator to reach a mutually acceptable outcome for each issue in your divorce. This allows for far more flexibility and opportunity to compromise than a judge is likely to come up with. It also affords you the opportunity to tailor your solutions to your own unique situation rather than accepting the ruling of the judge. If you are able to work with one another to find solutions for the issues in your divorce proceeding, you will have far more control over the details of your divorce settlement, allowing you to reach a fair outcome that is agreeable to everyone.
Divorce is an expensive process. The longer the process takes to complete, the more the costs add up. Court fees, filing fees, and attorneys' fees all continue to build throughout your divorce.
Mediation can provide a path to a quicker and cheaper resolution. The couple generally splits the cost of hiring the mediator and can choose whether or not they would like legal representation to be present throughout. While you may save money by not working with an attorney it will likely slow the process down and make it considerably more complicated for you. Hiring a lawyer to work with you throughout mediation will still generally end up being significantly cheaper than if your case went to court.
You may need to pay for the services of additional experts during the mediation process. Hiring an appraiser to get an accurate assessment of the value of your marital assets or working with a social worker to build a child custody plan or visitation schedule can make the process considerably easier. In all likelihood, you would need to make use of these services even if you skipped mediation and resolved your divorce through a court hearing.
The ability to lower the costs of divorce is one of the biggest benefits for most couples working through mediation.
Another of the major benefits of mediation is the amount of time it can save you. Working through a divorce in court is often a lengthy process, as the judge requires time to assess the situation and make their ruling. Many judges have incredibly busy schedules that can see your divorce drawn out over a much longer time than you might expect.
Mediation can offer you an opportunity to avoid long and difficult legal battles. You and your spouse can work through whatever disagreements you have regarding your divorce and move to finalize your divorce in a much quicker time frame.
Disadvantages of Divorce Mediation
Divorce mediation is a useful tool for many couples, but that does not mean it is the right fit for everyone. There are some drawbacks of divorce mediation that can make it unsuitable or impractical for some. Some of the disadvantages of the mediation process include:
It Does Not Offer Legal Advice
The divorce mediators in charge of the sessions will not offer legal advice to either party. This can leave you in a difficult position if you are unsure of how to move forward or are in need of legal advice during the mediation process. With this in mind, it is almost always in your best interest to hire an experienced divorce attorney to work with you in mediation.
Even if your attorney does not attend the meetings with you, they can still offer legal advice and guidance that can help you make decisions with confidence. The decisions made during this time can have far-reaching and long-lasting implications on your life and the lives of your children. You should take every opportunity to protect yourself and your rights throughout the divorce process.
It is Not a Good Fit for Every Couple
Not every couple will be able to make the most of mediation. It works best for couples who are able to maintain an amicable relationship or at least set their differences aside to work together in settling their issues. If you have a spouse who is unwilling to make compromises, attempts to control the terms of the divorce, or acts in a spiteful way in mediation meetings it is unlikely that you will be able to make any progress. Your lawyer will be able to help you decide if mediation is the right move for your situation.
It is Not Always Necessary
On the opposite side of the coin, if you are able to easily work with your spouse to compromise on the issues of your divorce mediation may not even be necessary. This is usually easier for younger couples or those who were married for a shorter period of time and have fewer marital assets or no children in the picture. If you have an amicable relationship with your spouse and can work to find common ground with one another it may be easier for you to outline your divorce settlement and have each of your lawyers draw up the paperwork and file it.
It May Not Prevent a Court Appearance
If you opt for mediation and are unable to resolve your issues you will still need to go to court to have a judge rule on your divorce. This is not necessarily a bad outcome, as you can solve the majority of your divorce settlement but be unable to reach an acceptable compromise on one particular point. It can also give you and your attorney an opportunity to gather more information regarding your divorce and allow them to build a stronger case for your court appearance. However, if you are unable to make any headway in the mediation process it will only serve to drag out your divorce for even longer.
Work With an Experienced Illinois Divorce Lawyer
Even if you entirely avoid divorce litigation by drafting a settlement in mediation it is still a good idea to hire a talented family lawyer. Whether or not they are physically present for your mediation meetings they can provide you with invaluable legal advice throughout the negotiation process.
Whether you are just beginning the divorce process, or you have already begun your mediation sessions, our experienced lawyers at Tommalieh Law are ready to help. Your case is important and our dedicated family law attorneys will handle it with the respect and dedication you deserve. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation to see what we can do for you!