Getting a divorce is a big decision, and it is even more complicated when children are involved. One of the most sensitive issues that arise from this is the matter of child custody. If both parties would rather avoid the process of litigation or the divorce is uncontested, they may adopt alternative methods to conflict resolution concerning issues like spousal support, property division, or child custody.
Divorcing a partner can involve hiring a mediator; no court filing is required. Such divorce processes are relatively informal and occur in less stringent or confrontational settings such as the mediator’s office. As opposed to a litigated divorce, where the court settles and decides the outcome of the divorce, mediation helps the couple to reach compromises and marital settlement agreements amicably. If the couple agrees to these arrangements, the divorce becomes uncontested. However, it does not end there. Only a judge and a court can legally annul a marriage. After a successful mediation, the court will need to review the arrangement and issue a final divorce decree.
In some parts of Illinois, county mediation services may be ordered by a court due to disagreements between a divorcing couple about parental time for visitation and custody.
However, the waiting time and process may be inconvenient for the parties involved. If your divorce proceedings are time-sensitive, private mediation is a better option. They offer more flexible schedules, but the associating costs have to be split between both parties. If you are considering getting a mediator, here are some facts you need to know.
Your divorce mediator can be a lawyer (or not)
A divorce mediator can have just about any background. They could be psychologists, marriage therapists, or even lawyers. However, it is essential to note that a person cannot serve as both lawyer and mediator to either party in a divorce. When a lawyer is your mediator, they take a different approach other than advocacy and cannot offer legal advice. They only provide an unbiased framework to guide resolutions.
The result of a successful mediation is a settlement agreement
As earlier mentioned, a written settlement agreement is drafted when mediation is successful. After this, mediators can prepare and file paperwork for the court to finalize the divorce. Non-legal mediators may not be able to do this, so you should confirm with a potential mediator precisely what services they offer.
Mediations cost less than litigation
Divorce is expensive, especially with attorney fees. Navigating litigation is almost impossible without legal counsel, as the law is difficult to master without education. On the other hand, mediations do not explicitly require you to have legal counsel during the process. Although, it is advised to have an attorney look at your settlement agreements after a mediation. Private mediations cost start at $3,000, which may not include court filing fees. Also, mediation takes a shorter time frame than litigated divorces, which could drag on for a long time and require more fees as time goes by.
Mediations may not always work
Certain situations prevent the success of a mediation. In domestic abuse cases, victims do not need mediation but a strong legal advocate. Also, mediating with a deceitful or narcissistic partner will not be productive, as honesty is required to navigate a fair settlement. If your partner blames you for the divorce or already has an attorney, you need an attorney.
If you need free mediation services, the Center for Conflict Resolution in Chicago offers this alongside services around financial issues in divorces.
Are you preparing for mediation or have questions about child custody, contact the offices of Hecht Schondorf today for a consultation. We have expert family law attorneys who will help you scale this difficult time.