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How is mediation used in a divorce in Illinois?


There are many marriages in Illinois every year. Weddings tend to be very happy occasions and, in most cases, the couple is in love. The couples also are generally able to work things out and deal with differences that arise. However, in many marriages, differences arise that the couple is not able to work out. Often times, these marriages end in divorce. Divorces tend to be the opposite of weddings. They are still emotional, but the emotions often involve sadness and/or anger rather than happiness.

Despite this marked change in emotions, many issues need to be resolved during a divorce. Couples need to divide their marital assets, determine whether one spouse will pay the other spousal maintenance and make decisions regarding child custody and child support.

Child custody decisions obviously have a big impact on the children, as well as the parents. They are also highly fact-specific decisions and each one is unique to that family's particular situation. The parents have the most knowledge about the situation and best understand it. If a judge is asked to make the decision, her or she is making the decision without completely knowing the children's lives.

Due to this fact, in many divorces, the parents either agree to or are ordered to mediate the matter. Illinois law states that if there is a chance that the parties could reach an agreement, the court can actually order the parties to mediate the outstanding issues. The mediation will take place through a court-ordered mediation service for the district. Also, to encourage settlement and to ensure that the parents are as open as possible to reaching an agreement, nothing said at the mediation can be brought up in court and used as evidence, unless the parties reach an agreement. If an agreement is not reached, the parties will continue through the matter utilizing the court system to reach a decision.

Mediation can be a useful tool for couples getting divorced in Illinois. As such, judges can actually order a couple to mediation. However, this is only meant to provide general information regarding mediation and is not legal advice. Attorneys understand the mediation process and can be helpful guides as one navigates his or her way through a divorce.

Source: Illinois General Assembly, Illinois Compiled Statutes, "750 ILCS 5/404" accessed on November 3, 2014

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