Every county family court in Illinois upholds laws for mandatory mediation in divorce. These laws exist to provide divorcing spouses with greater control over the outcomes of their divorce cases and minimize the court resources required for each case. Mediation is mandatory in every divorce so long as no legal impediments or exceptions exist in a case, such as domestic violence or a medical disability that prevents a spouse from fully participating in mediation. While many divorcing couples find mediation agreeable and can reach satisfactory mediated divorce agreements, the mediation process is not always successful.

It’s vital to have reliable legal representation as you navigate the mediation process in Illinois, but it’s essential to realize that mediation may not work out the way you initially expect. If mediation doesn’t work, your attorney can help you develop an individualized strategy for handling the aftermath.

How Does Mandatory Mediation Work?

Even if the Illinois county court compels you and your spouse to mediate your divorce, it’s vital to realize this provides significant advantages. Mediation allows you and your spouse to keep your divorce proceedings entirely private. The only exceptions to this rule would include any admissions of criminal behavior, child abuse, or domestic violence that happen to arise during mediation sessions.

Some Illinois family courts appoint mediators at no charge to the divorcing couple, while other counties require divorcing spouses to secure their own mediators. The mediator’s job is to facilitate the couple’s divorce negotiations. They can provide clarity in navigating complex divorce statutes, but they do not offer direct legal counsel. Ultimately, the mediator is there to guide the discussion and ensure it remains productive.

It’s wise to have legal counsel on your side if you intend to take advantage of mediation privately or if the court orders you and your spouse to attempt mediation. Your attorney can help you extract maximum value from the mediation process and reduce or eliminate the need for costly and stressful litigation in handling your divorce.

Unfortunately, divorce is often an emotionally charged issue, and mediation does not always generate a definitive divorce agreement. When divorcing spouses cannot negotiate civilly or are unable to reach mutual agreement on certain aspects of their divorce, the case will proceed to the litigation process.

When Mediation Falls Short of a Complete Divorce Agreement

Even when divorce mediation is not mandatory under state laws, mediation may fail to generate a completed divorce agreement for several reasons. The divorcing couple may be unable to reach mutually agreeable terms to certain aspects of their divorce, or they may not be able to navigate certain issues without court intervention. It’s possible to mediate some parts of a divorce and then move to litigation to settle the rest, or a divorcing couple may need to endure the litigation process for the entirety of their divorce case.

Unfortunately, some divorcing spouses might believe that a trial would be preferable to divorce mediation and ensure they get the result they think they deserve, but this is often not the case. When a family court judge rules on a divorce, they will do it entirely based on state divorce statutes, not the personal preferences or expectations of the divorcing spouses. Additionally, they will not have the personal frame of reference required for ensuring an agreeable outcome to the divorce. It is almost always in the best interests of both spouses to take full advantage of divorce mediation and avoid litigation as much as possible.

If your divorce moves to litigation, you can expect to pay much more in attorney’s fees than you would have if you had secured a mediated divorce agreement. Litigation is much more time-consuming than mediation, and ultimately you lose any measure of control that the mediation process could have afforded you. Additionally, when divorced spouses feel that a litigated divorce settlement does not suit their needs, expectations, or preferences, noncompliance is more likely.

How to Prepare for Mediation

If you plan to divorce in Illinois, you should acknowledge that mediation will likely come into play in some measure in your divorce case. Even if you cannot imagine having a civil negotiation with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, it’s vital to recognize that mediation can significantly streamline the process for you both. It can ultimately allow you to reach a more personalized and preferable result as well.

Working with an experienced Illinois divorce attorney is the best way to ensure you get the most value possible out of mediation. Your attorney will help you remain objective about the situation and assist you in preparing for mediation. If you genuinely cannot stand to sit and negotiate with your spouse, your respective attorneys can communicate with one another and relay messages to your mediator. Ultimately, reliable legal counsel from a trustworthy Illinois divorce attorney is your best asset when you are unsure what to expect from divorce mediation.