Divorce mediation is a process that allows spouses to work with a qualified and neutral divorce mediator to work out the specific details of their divorce settlement. This gives both partners a level playing field to reach an agreeable solution on issues such as child custody and support and property division. This agreement is then recorded as the divorce settlement.
A couple can use this settlement agreement when filing for an uncontested divorce with the court. An uncontested divorce will often speed up legal separation since the details have already been worked out without the court's assistance. Following this path could see your divorce finalized in a few short months.
While a divorce lawyer is not strictly necessary for mediation, it is usually a good idea to have someone who can help you negotiate for your best interests and protect your parental rights. If you have any questions about divorce mediation and how it would apply to your case, or need an attorney to review your case before moving forward, contact us today at Tommalieh Law to schedule a free initial consultation.
What is the Process of Mediation?
While the specifics of each session depend on the individual mediator and the unique circumstances each family brings, most mediation sessions follow similar formats:
Prior to Mediation
You will commonly be asked to answer a series of questions and speak with the mediator prior to sitting down for the session. At this point, you will likely go over facts about your marriage, family life, and what you feel to be the biggest issues in your divorce. They may also ask you to write a statement that lists this information and highlights some of the key issues you hope to resolve through mediation.
It is common practice to sign disclosure documents at this stage. This will demonstrate that you agree to keep the mediation session confidential, and will also require you to agree that the mediator will not disclose information from the mediation in court.
Sitting Down For Mediation
The majority of mediation sessions take place in an office or conference room. The exact process can differ from one mediator to another, with some preferring to work with both parties in the same room for the duration of the mediation, and others separating the couple to work with each individual privately. It is common for each spouse to bring their own private divorce lawyer to the mediation session.
The mediator will usually lay out the agenda at the beginning of the session, after which they will take a statement from each spouse about the marriage and their own situation. This may take some time as the mediator will have to follow up questions for you and will want to be certain they fully understand what you are telling them.
After this, the session will really get underway, as the divorce mediator begins to focus on specific areas you and your spouse agree on for your divorce and specific areas you disagree on. This is where the mediation process can really get difficult. The biggest things you can do to ensure that mediation goes smoothly are to be willing to compromise and work to understand the point of view of your spouse.
You do not have to give in on the issues that are most important to you, but working to understand the arguments from a different point of view can help you and the qualified mediator come up with new solutions. This can help you get the most out of your divorce mediation sessions.
Finalize Your Agreements
If you and your spouse successfully settle the issues related to your divorce, your mediator will draw up a divorce settlement agreement. This settlement will only include areas you and your spouse have come to an agreement on, any others will need to be resolved at a later time, or the court will rule on them during a hearing. This settlement can help resolve property division, including real estate and bank accounts, child support, child custody, and any number of other common points of friction in divorces.
You will need to file your divorce paperwork with the court, which some mediators will help with. The court will then review your case and if they decide your settlement agreement follows the legal guidelines required they will include it in the finalized divorce decree. At that point, the settlement will be a legal agreement like any other and will be enforceable as a court order.
Benefits of Divorce Mediation
There are a number of benefits to using mediation in your divorce process. The most important benefits for most separating couples are the greater amount of understanding and control they have during the process, in addition to the time and money that can be saved through mediation versus a typical divorce.
Understand Your Options
Doing even the most cursory check into divorce proceedings will show you that there are a number of different routes you can take. The less you and your spouse agree on your divorce proceedings, the fewer options will be open for you. Likewise, more complicated situations such as those with contested custody claims or closely linked assets can likely require far more guidance than their simpler counterparts. Having access to the opinions of experts can help you fully understand what opportunities are available to you, and a talented divorce mediator can let you know of any issues that may need to be handled in advance, and help you explore options that have worked for others in similar situations.
Have More Control Over the Process
Divorce mediation affords you a much greater opportunity to decide how your life, your assets, and the lives of your children will be impacted by a divorce. An experienced mediator will use the information provided by you and your spouse to put together an agreement that works for both parties.
Family court judges rarely have the opportunity to create a mutually beneficial divorce settlement. They are very busy and typically have limited time to review the facts of each case that they oversee. This can lead to operating largely within specific sets of guidelines with little time or opportunity to accommodate the unique factors each family faces. Mediation is a tool that can allow you to focus on the biggest sticking points in your divorce and build a solution specifically for the needs of your family.
Finalize Your Divorce Faster
Divorce mediation can allow you to move through the process far more quickly than would ever be possible through a typical divorce. The biggest limiting factor in mediation is how effectively you and your spouse are able to set aside your differences and work together to form a settlement agreement.
A standard divorce moving through the court system is subject to any number of delays outside of your control. Your judge is likely to have a heavy caseload which will push you back in the system and result in an extremely drawn-out process. A divorce can have an extreme emotional impact on you and your children, and mediation can help by speeding up the process rather than turning it into a protracted courtroom battle.
Divorce mediation can save you a considerable amount of money on costs ranging from attorneys' fees to court costs. The majority of mediations see the spouses split the fee between the two of them. You may still need to hire experts such as appraisers or social workers to weigh in on issues during the mediation process, but you will not need to pay for them to testify in court which can save you further money. Also, keep in mind that if you are uncertain about representing yourself during mediation you can still work with an attorney and it will likely be much cheaper than retaining their services through a trial divorce.
How Much Does Mediation Cost?
Mediation costs can fluctuate dramatically based on the details surrounding your divorce, but it is often far less costly than a standard courtroom divorce. Some critical questions that can impact the cost of your mediation include:
- How many sessions do you need?
- How thorough is your divorce mediator?
- What conflicts come up throughout the process?
- What unresolved issues need to be covered during the mediation sessions?
Divorce mediation can help you save significant amounts of money throughout the divorce process. Just the cost of hiring an attorney for traditional divorce litigation can set you back by thousands of dollars, with prices rising the more complex the case becomes. Should you choose to hire a lawyer to represent you during your mediation, the cost will also be quite a bit lower than if you were hiring them for a trial. If divorce mediation is a good move for you and your spouse to settle your issues before proceeding with your separation, it can save you quite a lot of money.
Will Mediation Speed Up a Divorce?
While there is no way to tell the exact timeline for your specific divorce case, mediation is a significantly quicker path to a finalized divorce. Mediation can see a divorce finalized in just a few months, versus over a year for a courtroom divorce.
Numerous factors can impact the length of your mediation process, including:
- Children - custody issues, parenting schedules, child support disagreements, and more can all take time to work through
- Division of marital assets - how will homes, businesses, bank accounts, etc. be divided in the divorce?
These factors can slow down the mediation process, but will almost certainly slow down a conventional divorce trial as well. The ability to save time is a major benefit of divorce mediation.
When Should You Use Mediation for a Divorce?
Divorce mediation is a great option for couples looking to quickly and cheaply complete their divorce, but it is not for everyone. Mediation works best if you and your spouse are able to sit and discuss difficult situations, and are willing to compromise and look for common ground while discussing your marital issues. If you are unwilling or unable to do these things, or if there is a history of domestic violence, abuse, mental illness, or addiction in the marriage then divorce mediation is likely not the right path for you.
Contact an Illinois Divorce Mediation Attorney
A divorce is the most stressful situation many people will face in their lives. The divorce mediation process allows couples to reach an amicable resolution for custody issues, financial issues, and other legal issues surrounding their divorce while maintaining greater control over the outcome and saving both time and money. A neutral mediator can be a great help in making informed decisions regarding the division of assets collected in marriage, child support and parenting time, and other stressful marital issues. While mediation may seem less stressful than traditional court divorces, it can still be difficult to represent yourself throughout the process.
If you are considering divorce mediation, you should consult with one of our divorce attorneys at Tommalieh Law. We are ready to help you understand your options through the mediation process, protect your parental rights, and negotiate a successful mediation agreement. Call us today or schedule an appointment online for a free initial consultation!