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Should you try to mediate your divorce?

Divorce is rarely pleasant, but it doesn't have to be acrimonious. If you and your spouse want to try mediation as an alternative to court proceedings, learning more about the process can help you decide.

Why mediate?

Mediation allows couples the autonomy of making their own decisions based on their particular needs and the needs of any minor children. Instead of allowing a judge to decide the details of your custody, visitation and property settlement, the two of you hammer it out under the supervision of a professional mediator.

What is the mediator's role?

Mediators remain neutral and attempt to lead couples to find satisfactory resolutions to their issues. By facilitating communication between divorcing spouses, mediators allow both parties to express their points without interruption.

Sometimes the mediator may ask the other spouse to restate what the speaking spouse has said. This allows any misstatements to be clarified. Another task of mediators is to explain the intricacies of the Illinois family court system. He or she can offer an opinion on how some matters could be perceived by the court, and suggest various alternatives that may allow the couple to resolve some or all of their issues.

How does it work?

Spouses meet together with their mediator in sessions lasting one or two hours. Initially, the couple is asked to state which issues need to be mediated. They will be asked to supply documentation to support their positions, e.g., expert witness statements, appraisals and financial documents.

There is no set number of sessions in mediation. It continues until the two resolve their issues or decide to let the court sort it out. If an agreement is reached, the mediator will then draw up the agreement. Both spouses are strongly encouraged to retain separate counsel to review the draft.

Are there any other benefits?

Definitely. When mediation is successful, it eliminates the need to appear in court — always a plus. Mediation can enhance the parties' communication skills and set a positive tone for future interactions.

Mediating your divorce is less contentious than hammering out a judgment in court. Additionally, in most cases, both spouses spend less in legal fees than they would by going to court.

Can all couples mediate?

Mediation is not for everyone. When domestic violence is part of the couple's history, it's better to handle the divorce through the courts. Your attorney can recommend mediation when appropriate.

Source: Findlaw, "Divorce Mediation FAQ," accessed June 09, 2017

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