Our firm receives many questions about Mediation. Below you will find common questions and relevant information to the most frequently asked questions about family law and divorce mediation. If you have other questions about mediation or want to get started, please have both parties contact the office to schedule a joint complimentary telephone call. If you feel the other parent or spouse will not participate in a joint call, perhaps mediation is not a good fit and you might consider our other divorce services.
Does Mediation Work?
Yes, mediation works for many couples and family members. A huge benefit over traditional litigation is the parties have an opportunity to directly hear the other party's concerns and position. The private process permits the parties to listen and consider the other's opinion without compromising their own interests.
Communication through third parties (i.e. attorneys, attorney's staff, etc) can be ineffective and inefficient, and costs inevitably go up due to the amount of time and people needed to convey and interpret a party's concerns.
Furthermore, since mediators do not act as an advocate for either party, a mediator can visualize and verbalize options not previously considered by either party. This helps facilitate a future focused agreement.
Do we need to file for divorce (or a petition) before coming to mediation?
No. Any dispute can be mediated. Also, mediation often prevents parties from having to file a petition with a court.
For court ordered mediation in DuPage County, IL, the parties of a divorce or parentage case will be ordered to mediation by the judge. In a post-decree case (an issue that arises after the divorce is finalized) the parties must attend mediation with a court approved mediator prior to filing a petition with the court.
Erin Birt is a court approved mediator in DuPage County, IL and several other counties in Illinois.
Is mediation required by Illinois family law courts?
Many Illinois counties do require mediation before any contested court hearing.
Is mediation used only for family law cases?
No. Any dispute can be mediated.
How are complex issues determined/addressed?
If a party cannot agree on matters in mediation without professional assistance, the parties may agree to hire a neutral professional (i.e. home appraiser, financial expert, business valuator) to provide assistance for complex issues such as determining the value of a home, retirement plan, or business.
In order to keep mediation a private process, the parties can agree and sign an agreement to keep all expert opinions private and used only for purposes of mediation.
Can mediation be used to modify an existing agreement?
Yes. Circumstances change. Mediation can help parties to talk about the life transitions and/or changed circumstances and incorporate any needed changes into the previously reached agreement in order to reflect the new circumstances.
For families that were previously in court, the modified agreement must be entered with the court to ensure that it is enforceable.
Do the parties have to sit in the same room for mediation?
A benefit of mediation is direct communication; however there are appropriate times when the parties may need to be separated. Sometimes the parties need a break and struggle with direct communication and benefit from a brief separation. Also, if there are concerns for safety and security (or if a court order mandates) the parties will be separated and the mediator will meet with each individual in separate rooms.
We also offer mediation via Zoom.
Can parties that reside in different states mediate?
Yes and it depends. For court ordered mediation, one party must reside in Illinois, however, if the other party has relocated, we can make accommodations to mediate via telephone conferences or Zoom. It is recommended that the parties meet in person for at least one (1) session.
We also provide mediation services for couples and parents throughout the United States. Since mediation is not a legal service, our mediator can meet with couples and parents via Zoom that live outside of Illinois.
Does a mediator inform us about legal rights?
The advantage of using a mediator that is also a lawyer is that the mediator understands the legal requirements for an enforceable and equitable agreement.
A mediator/lawyer can help you learn about legal information and present options that have been previously accepted by a court. A mediator/lawyer, however, cannot provide you with legal advice or present legal strategy to either party. A mediator also cannot appear in court to have a judge sign the agreement reached in mediation if that is needed in your situation.
Should anyone in mediation need to consult with an attorney during the mediation process, our mediator will provide you with trusted referrals to consider for legal consulting while remaining committed to mediation.
What are the risks of Mediation?
Similar to traditional litigation and collaborative law, mediation may involve some of the following risks:
- Negotiations may not be effective if you have concerns about your spouse, ex-spouse, or family member's ability to be honest and forthright in financial disclosures.
- Divorce mediation may not be suitable for parties having vast differences in their power such as:
- financial sophistication,
- bargaining savvy,
- history of intimate partner violence or abuse,
- present difficulties with medical or mental health issues or with substance abuse.
The above issues must be disclosed to the mediator prior to the initiation of any mediation services to ensure the safety of the parties and/or mediator.It is possible that a resolution will not be reached during mediation. We will, however, narrow the issues that need to be resolved even if an entire agreement is not reached.
How Much Does Mediation Cost?
Please obtain an estimate for mediation here.