In Illinois you are required to use mediation to create a parenting plan. If you try and are unable, a judge, who knows very little about your family and the needs of your children, will create a parenting plan for you. The judge’s plan will likely not be desired by either parent because it is created quickly and without knowledge of your family. It is in your best interests to work with a divorce mediator to create a parenting plan together that you both desire and that is in the best interest of your family.
You may also use divorce mediation to agree on all other decisions regarding your divorce, including the financial division of your assets, debts and property, the disposition of the marital home, child support, children’s expenses, decision making for the children regarding medical, educational, extracurricular and religious activities, child support, maintenance, transportation to/from parenting time, child care, college decisions and expenses, and more.
You generally have two options to divorce: 1) hire a mediator or 2) hire a lawyer. Both are acceptable paths but it is cheaper and healthier to call a mediator first. Let's review both.
Call A Mediator
Your first call should be to a divorce mediator, who can guide you to make all of your own decisions. The mediator will host joint sessions with you covering all decisions that need to be reached. The mediator is neutral and facilitates discussion between both of you so you can reach your own agreements about every aspect of your children and your finances. At the end of the process your mediator will provide you with a Memorandum Of Understanding which summarizes all agreements reached. You will bring your Memorandum Of Understanding to a lawyer to review and create your formal divorce documents. Your lawyer will present those final documents to the judge, who will also review them before approving your divorce. When you mediate your divorce you usually have only one court appearance to approve your divorce.
The benefits of hiring a divorce mediator to handle your divorce include the following:
Call A Lawyer
When you hire a lawyer you will each pay a large retainer to engage two separate lawyers and they will each draw from your retainers for everything they do for you, including every conversation you have with them and every email you send to them. You will deplete your retainer and continue to replenish it as your divorce drags on, and you will seemingly spend a significant amount of money before even seeing progress. This can add up to substantial lawyer fees ($10’s - $100’s of thousand dollars combined). You generally speak to your lawyer and your spouse speaks to their lawyer. When in court, the lawyers generally speak to the judge for you. You stop communicating with your spouse and let your paid professionals speak for you. This dynamic is not at all conducive to an amicable divorce, and because a litigated divorce takes 1-2 years, this dynamic creates a dynamic that is not healthy to either of you, and most importantly, to your children.
Generally, when you hire a lawyer:
Because you are required to mediate your parenting plan, and because mediation is cheaper, less-stressful and non-binding, it is in your best interest to hire a mediator before calling a lawyer, and see if you can work together to make all of your own decisions through mediation. Even if you can’t, whichever areas you can agree on can be brought to your lawyers and will reduce their fees for resolving the remaining areas of your divorce. You ought to always start with a divorce mediator and see how far you can use this healthier and cheaper path.
Mediation is the least stressful, cheapest, quickest way to divorce. It allows you to make all of your own decisions (which is more important than you may realize), and most importantly, it sets you both up to be the best co-parents for your most valuable assets, your children. Even contested divorces can be mediated.
I offer free assessments and consultations, so please call me at (224) 544-9990 if you have any questions. I am happy to listen and help you understand your options.