Barrington Divorce Mediation Lawyers

When you get married, you never anticipate that you might break up with your new spouse someday. Yet over time, people change – and divorce might be the best option. If you are contemplating divorce or have already filed for divorce, then divorce mediation might be a good option for you.

Divorce mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). It is a less formal process that often costs less, and allows for a quicker resolution to divorce. During the process, a third-party mediator works with each spouse to help them come to a resolution on legal matters such as property division, child custody and support, and alimony (spousal support).

Manassa Law is dedicated to helping individuals and families in all types of family law cases. Our Barrington divorce mediation lawyers works hard to help our clients resolve their divorce cases in the most efficient, cost-effective manner possible. Give our law office a call to schedule a free initial consultation.

Lawrence discusses mediation and collaborative divorce on a recent podcast:

What Is Divorce Mediation?

mediation blocks on top of forms on table next to law book and pen

Divorce mediation is an informal process where a neutral third party – known as a mediator – works with the parties in a divorce case to help them resolve their issues. The mediator does not make a decision for the divorcing couple, but instead helps them work through any issues that they may disagree on in their divorce. This may include matters such as property division, spousal maintenance, and parenting considerations.

The role of the mediator is to help the parties identify any issues that they may have, explore the parties’ interests and priorities, and identify possible solutions that are mutually agreeable. In addition, mediators are trained to help the parties reduce misunderstandings. If mediation is successful, then the parties can avoid going to trial. 

If the parties are able to come to an agreement, then a settlement document will be drafted by one or both of the parties’ lawyers. A divorce mediation attorney can also memorialize the terms of the parties’ agreement by drafting a memorandum of understanding (MOU). The divorce settlement is then approved by the court after limited testimony after what is known as a “prove up” court date. If the court signs off on the settlement, then the divorce will be finalized.

Mediation is not binding, which means that the parties are not required to come to an agreement. It is private and confidential. It is often a good way to start building a cooperative relationship post-divorce.

In Illinois, divorce mediation is required for parents who are not in agreement over the allocation of parental responsibilities (child custody), relocation, and other issues related to their children – other than child support. A court may also order mediation for divorce matters that are not related to children. This may include mediation over assets, debt, and money. If the parties in a divorce cannot agree to a mediator for divorce mediation that is not related to children, then the court will assign a mediator to them.

When Can You Use Divorce Mediation in Illinois?

Divorce mediation can be used at any point in the process. In most cases, couples who are ending their marriage choose to engage in mediation either before filing for divorce or after filing. However, in some situations, the parties may choose to go through mediation after the divorce itself has been finalized. 

If you and your soon-to-be-ex think that you can work out most of the issues in a divorce – such as child custody, alimony, and the division of assets and debts – amicably, then you may seek an uncontested divorce. However, if you are having trouble developing a separation agreement, then you may ask a mediator to help. A mediator can work with you to help reach an agreement on key points of the divorce – which can allow you to go with the cheaper, quicker option of an uncontested divorce.

Even after a divorce petition has been filed, you can still choose to engage in mediation. In many cases, once the actual divorce process begins, one or both parties recognize that it is in their best interests to try to resolve any of their issues outside of the court system. Even if you initially thought that you would be going through a contested divorce, you can choose to go to mediation to try to work out an agreement. In some cases, a judge may even order you to mediate certain issues.

Finally, even after a divorce is final, disagreements over the terms of the divorce may arise. For example, if one parent wants to move out of state and the other parent objects, the parties may need to either come to an agreement about how to handle the issue or go to court. Mediation may be a way to avoid the time, expense, and stress of a court battle – and may even be ordered by the court. A Barrington divorce attorney can guide you through the process, whether you are considering filing for divorce, have already filed, or your divorce is final.

The Divorce Mediation Process

Mediation is a less formal process than a trial or other court appearance. However, mediation is still structured. Typically, mediation opens with a statement by the mediator that outlines the rules and goals of mediation. In many cases, one or both of the parties is represented by a Barrington divorce lawyer.

The mediator will listen to each spouse and/or their attorney as they discuss the terms of their divorce. They may also speak to each spouse privately to help them talk through their goals. Throughout the process, the mediator will encourage the parties to work together and reach a compromise.

Mediation may be completed in one session or may require multiple sessions over several days. The mediator will keep working with the parties to help them come to an agreement that is mutually acceptable.

If the parties do reach an agreement, then a settlement agreement or a memorandum of understanding will be created. Each party’s attorney will review this document carefully before advising their client to sign it. Finally, the settlement agreement will be submitted to the court. If the court approves the agreement, then the divorce will be finalized.

While the goal of mediation is often to completely resolve all issues related to a divorce, the parties may only be able to come to an agreement on some matters. In this situation, any outstanding issues will typically be resolved through litigation.

Benefits of Divorce Mediation

When a divorcing couple is able to communicate well with each other, mediation can be an incredibly beneficial process. In this situation, there are a number of advantages to divorce mediation, particularly when compared to litigation. 

First, divorce mediation is often much cheaper than litigation. Going through a divorce can be expensive. If your case goes to trial, it could cost you a significant amount of money. Mediation may allow you to resolve all of your issues for much less than what you would spend in legal fees if you went to court.

Second, divorce mediation is often more efficient than litigation. Particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, courts are struggling with a backlog of cases. It may take a year or longer to get a trial date for a divorce. By contrast, you can typically schedule a mediation much more quickly – and get your divorce finalized sooner.

Third, divorce mediation is often less stressful for everyone. While you may be represented by a Barrington divorce lawyer, mediation is not as high stakes as litigation. It is more casual, and you aren’t bound to the results of mediation. Choosing divorce mediation can take some of the pressure off of a situation that can be emotionally taxing. 

Fourth, divorce mediation focuses on cooperation and compromise. Divorcing couples who share children will have to remain in contact for years (or possibly for the rest of their lives!). Working together to hammer a settlement – instead of going to war in a drawn-out courtroom battle – can help you develop a more respectful relationship.

Fifth, a mediator can often help you “frame” the issues so that you can come to an agreement. In many divorces, the parties tend to get lost in the weeds, focusing on details instead of the big picture. A divorce mediator brings a fresh perspective, which includes listening to each spouse and explaining to both parties what the other hopes to achieve.

This may sound basic, but it is incredibly important because it often helps the divorcing couple reach an agreement. For example, if you know that your ex’s primary goal in the divorce is to keep the house – and you don’t care about the house – it can make it easier to negotiate to reach an agreement. Having a neutral third party is often the best way to break down barriers to a resolution, starting with outlining what the outstanding issues and each party’s goals are.

That being said, divorce mediation isn’t the best choice in all situations. In particular, if one or both parties are unwilling or unable to compromise, mediation may be a waste of time and money. There are also certain cases where divorce mediation simply isn’t appropriate, such as when there are allegations of domestic abuse, the relationship between the parties is hostile, or one spouse has been accused of hiding assets.

A skilled Barrington divorce lawyer can help you determine whether mediation is a good option based on your particular case. During a free initial consultation, they will listen to your story and offer legal advice based on your situation.

How Can a Lawyer Help Me with Divorce Mediation?

If you choose to do divorce mediation – or are required by a court to engage in mediation – you are not required to have an attorney. However, working with a divorce lawyer can help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case.

An experienced Barrington divorce attorney understands Illinois law on issues such as the division of marital assets, how child custody and support are calculated, and the potential for spousal support. They can educate you on these issues, and help you get a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your case.

This can help you have a much more successful and productive mediation. Without this knowledge, you may agree to things that are not in your best interest – or supported by law (such as agreeing to divide one of your assets that actually is not considered marital property under IL law). Alternatively, you may have unrealistic goals that lead to the mediation failing. A divorce attorney can advise you on a strategy based on their knowledge of the law.

A lawyer can also explain the rules and procedures of mediation, help you select a mediator, and prepare you for mediation. They will offer advice on potential settlements, review or draft a settlement agreement, and prepare formal divorce paperwork. Throughout the process, they will advocate for your best interests and help you achieve your goals.

Are Divorce Mediators Attorneys?

Not necessarily. Although many divorce mediators are attorneys – including some members of our law firm – there is no requirement that a divorce mediator be a lawyer. However, there are many benefits to working with a mediator who is also an attorney – including the fact that they will typically be familiar with Illinois law. 

A divorce attorney can help you select a mediator that is best for your specific needs. If you live in Barrington, IL, or the surrounding areas, give Manassa Law a call to schedule a free initial consultation with our legal team.

Can My Divorce Mediation Lawyer Mediate My Divorce?

No. By definition, divorce mediation involves a neutral third party. For this reason, the attorney who represents you cannot serve as a mediator. Instead, you can choose a private mediator or use the court’s mediation services.

However, your attorney can represent you at the mediation. They can prepare documents and expert reports, and help you develop a strategy. Give our law office a call today to talk to a Barrington divorce mediation attorney.

How Much Does Divorce Mediation Cost?

Private divorce mediators are paid an hourly rate. The exact amount will depend on the individual mediator.  While this may seem expensive, it is typically far cheaper than taking your divorce case to trial. The cost of mediation is generally split between the two parties.

The overall cost of divorce mediation can vary based on your unique situation. This includes the number of disagreements that need to be resolved, the complexity of these issues and whether you and your spouse are able to work together in mediation. If you are paying by the hour for a private mediator, then having more issues and a harder time coming to an agreement means that you will likely pay more compared to someone who may only need a few hours of a mediator’s time.

Of course, in most cases, mediation is still more cost-effective than going through a full-blown divorce trial. The key is often whether you and your soon-to-be-ex are able and willing to work through any issues together. If one party refuses to compromise, then mediation may ultimately be a waste of time and money.

At Manassa Law, we consider every aspect of our clients’ divorce cases – including the cost of litigation and mediation. We will advise you based on your unique situation, and help you resolve your case in a way that works for you and your family. Call our office or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

When Is Divorce Mediation Inappropriate?

There are many benefits to divorce mediation. However, as noted above, divorce mediation is not appropriate for all cases.

Divorce mediation – like all forms of alternative dispute resolution – is successful when both parties are willing and able to work together. If one party cannot or will not work cooperatively to try to reach an agreement, then mediation is not a good choice. For example, if one spouse is emotionally abusive towards the other spouse, they may use mediation as a way to further manipulate and control their ex. Similarly, if one party simply doesn’t feel comfortable expressing their opinions, mediation likely will not be successful.

Illinois recognizes that there are situations when mediation is not an option. In fact, under Illinois court rules, couples are excused from mandatory mediation of custody issues if the court finds that there is an impediment to mediation that would make it inappropriate or that would otherwise unreasonably interfere with the mediation process. Examples of potential impediments include:

  • Family violence
  • “Undue influence” over the other spouse
  • Harassment, intimidation, or interference with the other spouse’s personal liberty
  • Fraud
  • Mental or cognitive impairment
  • Alcohol abuse 
  • Chemical dependency

There are safety measures that can be put in place if you want to move forward with mediation even if your ex has a history of physical and/or emotional abuse. This can include things like a mediator meeting separately with each spouse. 

However, if you are trying to leave an abusive relationship, you should carefully consider – in consultation with your Barrington divorce lawyer – whether mediation is the best choice in your circumstances. Litigation abuse – or using the court system to continue to control, abuse, and/or harass another person – is a common tactic employed by people who abuse. Your attorney can help you understand your options and the best way to protect yourself from an abusive partner.

Considering Divorce? Give Our Law Firm a Call.

Attorney Larry Manassa
Barrington Divorce Mediation Lawyer, Larry Manassa

Divorce can be a painful, expensive process. Divorce mediation is a way for many couples to split in a more amicable fashion, with the help of a neutral third party. A divorce lawyer can shepherd you through the process.

At Manassa Law, we have extensive experience in divorce mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution. We are dedicated to helping our Illinois family law clients get the best possible outcome for their cases. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Barrington divorce attorney, give us a call at (866) 661-9235 or fill out our online contact form.

Manassa Law – Barrington Office

1000 Hart Rd 3rd Floor
Barrington, IL 60010
P: (847) 996-9177