Frequently Asked Questions
What is mediation?
Mediation is an efficient and inexpensive process designed to help individuals resolve conflict during and after a separation or divorce. The method in which conflicts are processed and resolved will have a large influence on a family’s adjustment to separation and divorce. Mediators are neutral professionals. Their role is to help individuals clearly define issues, keep lines of communication open and promote discussion and resolution. Mediators do not make decisions for you, YOU are in charge of making your own decisions about what happens to you, your children and your finances. It IS possible to come to resolution of conflict in the face of anger, resentment and fear. Some of the issues that mediation addresses are: plans for parenting children, division of property and future financial provisions. Mediation can be done both pre and post decree.
What training does someone need to become a mediator?
Most divorce and family mediators have completed a basic (30-40 hour) divorce and family mediation training course. Many mediators apprentice with other mediators or obtain supervision of other mediators for a time after they complete their basic training. In addition, mediators generally pursue additional training in the substantive issues of separation and divorce. In Illinois, most organizations that mediators choose to belong to, such as the Mediation Council of Illinois, have continuing education requirements in order to maintain membership.
Is a mediated agreement binding?
If you are involved in a divorce or another family issue that is filed in court, any agreement you reach may be filed with the court. You should speak with your lawyer about how this works and what your options are. The court generally reviews the agreement to assure that it conforms to the standards that have been established, such as the child support guidelines and, where it doesn’t, what special circumstances exist.
If your dispute is not filed in court, the agreement is usually considered to be a contract. Depending on the nature of the agreement and the dispute, if there is a breach of the contract, you might be able to file a claim with the court.
Is mediation confidential?
Mediation is a private process, not open to the public. You will be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement before beginning mediation. The mediator is bound by law to keep confidential what is discussed in mediation.
If I use mediation, will I need to go to court?
If you are using mediation in order to obtain a divorce, you will have to file in court for your divorce. However, if you are able to reach a mutually agreeable resolution to all of the property, financial, custody, parenting and other issues that you are attempting to resolve, and the court accepts your settlement, it is unlikely that you will have to make many, or any, court appearances. Generally, the more you do outside of the court to decide how you want to handle your divorce, the better. This will save time, money and emotional resources.
Will I need a lawyer in order to use mediation?
In divorce cases, mediators will recommend that each spouse be represented by his and her own attorney. However, by using mediation, it is likely that you will use fewer legal services and that those you use will be different than if you did not use mediation. Your lawyer will provide you with guidance and legal counsel and can draft documents for filing with the court. Even when the mediator is a lawyer, the mediator is not acting as a lawyer and cannot represent either person in the divorce.
What should I know about a mediator before choosing one?
You should approach hiring a mediator just like you would any other professional. Speak with many mediators to get a feel for their style and approach to the process. In addition, ask questions about the following:
How long will mediation take?
- Training, experience and background of the mediator;
- Experience or knowledge in mediating the type of issues you have;
- Fees charged and how fees are divided among the parties to the mediation;
- Professional memberships.
Because each separation and divorce is different, it is hard to predict exactly how long your mediation will last. In general, a full divorce, including custody issues, division of property and assets, takes between three and eight sessions. In addition, the mediator will take time to prepare a Memorandum of Understanding, outlining all of the agreements that you have reached through the mediation process. Mediation is voluntary and any party, including the mediator, may end it at any time.
How long are the sessions?
Generally, mediation sessions are scheduled to last from 1 ½ to 2 hours, depending on the couple’s needs and available time. Some couples prefer longer sessions while others find that shorter sessions are more productive. Each mediator works differently and has a different approach to how they schedule sessions. This is an important question to ask in your initial phone call.
Will we meet weekly with the mediator?
At the initial mediation session, you will identify the issues that need to be decided in order to separate or divorce. What these issues are, how urgent the decisions are, and how quickly you wish to proceed will determine on what schedule you meet with the mediator. If mediation sessions are court-ordered, frequency of sessions will be on more of a strict time frame in order to accommodate court dates.
How much will mediation cost?
Your mediation costs will be based on an hourly fee. The cost of mediation depends on who is conducting the mediation. The average cost in DuPage County is $175-$275 per hour. Typically, there is also a retainer or deposit that is paid in addition to the hourly rate. This deposit will be cover time spent on reviewing and drafting documents, writing the Memorandum of Understanding, telephone consultations, and consultations by the mediator with your attorneys or other advisors in the process. The cost of mediation is generally significantly less than if you each hired lawyers to represent you in your divorce without using mediation.
The average litigated divorce in DuPage county is $25,000 per person. If you choose to mediate part or all of your divorce, the cost is significantly less than this. For example, assuming that you meet with a mediator five times for two hours each time, plus an additional two hours of time for writing up the Memorandum of Understanding, the cost of mediation at $200 per hour would be a total of $2400. Parties generally split mediation fees, although some parties arrange for other split arrangements.
Who is present at the mediation session?
You and your spouse will both be present at the mediation session. On occasion, the mediator may wish to speak with each of you privately and confidentially. In addition, the mediator may want to speak with your child(ren).
What information must I disclose to my spouse and to the mediator?
All financial information must be disclosed as part of the mediation process. The mediator will work with you to determine your income, expenses, assets, liabilities, retirement funds and other financial information that is required as part of a legal divorce. Should information be withheld during the mediation process, any agreement reached may not be valid. Mediation operates under the principle that parties are open and honest in their sharing of information and communication. If a participant withholds information, mediation may not be the best choice for resolving your conflict.
What is discussed during the mediation?
In a typical mediation, the following issues must be addressed in order to generate an agreement that may be submitted with the court:
When is mediation not appropriate?
- Children: Parenting responsibility and time; living arrangements; legal and physical custody; insurance, education, support, holidays and many other issues.
- Assets and Debts: How these will be divided
- Property: Marital home, cars, other personal property
- Spousal Support: Whether there will be spousal support, in what amount and for how long
- Insurance and Medical Expenses
- Tax Issues
Mediation works best when both participants are able to fully express their needs and interests and are capable of following through on agreements. If there are any concerns regarding domestic violence, child abuse, mental illness or substance abuse, mediation is not the best choice for conflict resolution.
Please call 630-718-1570 for a free phone consultation or to schedule an appointment.