The Chicago Family Law Blog

The Mediated Divorce: Is it Right For You?

When one thinks of the words "divorce" and "court", images come to mind of bitter and nasty protracted litigation, with evil lawyers grilling the two parties over their alleged extramarital sexual activities and assets hidden in a safe deposit box in Mexico.

You can even see the blood dripping from the lawyers' fangs.

But it doesn't have to be that way. If there are no property division issues, and nothing to fight over, a quickie uncontested divorce might be the best route.

Often times, it's not quite that simple. Perhaps there are retirement accounts to split, or questions about child support. However, if the parties have maintained a decent working relationship, (which is important if they will have to co-parent), mediation is a superior alternative to the no-holds barred approach of the old school divorce litigation process.

Mediation and alternative dispute resolution used to be viewed as the hippy, "feel good", outsider's approach to law. The legal community generally frowned upon it.

It's now become part of the mainstream, and is even required in many cases by Illinois courts.

The process is simple. The parties hire a neutral mediator to discuss both parties' rights and responsibilities. It is especially effective when there are only a couple of issues to hammer out, such as the sale of a marital home and the splitting of a mutual retirement account.

The lawyer reviews the outstanding issues, discusses the law related to each matter, and helps the parties come to a (hopefully) peaceful compromise. The lawyer then drafts one set of documents for both parties, which includes the legal pleadings and a marital settlement agreement, and submits the paperwork to the court on behalf of the couple.

It beats hiring two expensive attorneys, who duke it out while running up fees. However, mediation is not for everyone.

If the two parties' relationship has degraded to the point where they cannot work together, or if they are letting their emotions control the divorce process, mediation will probably fail. If it does, the neutral attorney dismisses herself, and the two parties hire their own counsel for a traditional litigation-based divorce.

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