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The Dos and Don’ts of Divorce Mediation in Oakbrook Terrace, IL

Divorce mediation in Oakbrook Terrace, IL, can streamline a divorce and save considerable stress and money. The dos of this type of mediation include gathering financial documents, prioritizing the children’s best interests, keeping an open mind, and focusing on working cooperatively. Things to avoid include not taking the process seriously and letting emotions take over.

What Is the Purpose of Divorce Mediation?

Is it worth contesting a divorce? Typically, mediation is a better route for all parties involved. The overall aim of mediation for divorce is for both parties to agree on solutions. Mediation can help divorcing couples avoid protracted and expensive litigation and craft customized agreements that meet their unique circumstances. Co-parents also find that mediation can help them preserve a cooperative co-parenting relationship.

Why You Should Understand How Mediation Works During Your Divorce

You can make the most of mediation when you understand how it works. Illinois has two forms of divorce mediation.

The first is private mediation. It is voluntary, meaning the couples seek it out. Often, they undergo mediation before they file for divorce. Other times, couples may realize after filing that they are having trouble agreeing on issues or that they want to avoid litigation. They may then seek out private mediation.

The second type is court-ordered mediation. Many Illinois counties, including Cook and DuPage, require it for litigating couples.

Court-ordered mediation can be better than litigation, but it tends to have a few shortcomings. For example, the parties don’t get to choose their mediator. Court-approved mediators need only a 40-hour training class and may lack experience with real people and real cases. Also, many divorce issues are so complicated that even an experienced court-approved mediator might not be able to handle them expertly.

What is a collaborative divorce, and is it the same as an uncontested divorce with mediation? The two are not the same. In collaborative divorce, the parties and their respective collaborative divorce attorneys work together to reach agreements.

The Dos of Divorce Mediation in Oakbrook Terrace, IL

A few strategies can help you make the most of mediation.

Choose a Qualified Mediator

Working with the right mediator sets the stage for success. Your uncontested divorce lawyer should have a few people in mind who can serve as mediators. Factors to consider when choosing a mediator include:

  • Experience, especially in complicated or unique aspects of your case
  • Specialization in family law or divorce mediation
  • Communication style
  • Costs and fees (for example, hourly rate versus flat fee)
  • Office location

You should have an initial consultation. During this meeting, you and your spouse discuss your case and get a sense of the mediator’s approach and communication style. Choose someone who does not favor one spouse over the other.

Prepare Financial Documents

Having the information you need handy should help mediation go efficiently. Financial documents to gather include pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns, retirement account paperwork, investment portfolios, asset valuations, and other financial documents that may be necessary.

If you or your spouse is self-employed, documents could include profit and loss statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, invoices, receipts, contracts, and details on accounts receivable and payable, among others. It’s better to gather too much than to be unprepared.

Communicate Openly and Honestly

Open and honest communication plays a big role in the success of mediation. Communicating your goals, needs, and priorities is important.

When you discuss your feelings, use “I” statements that avoid blame. Non-confrontational language can go a long way. Try to select words that focus on problem-solving and collaboration, rather than words that come across as confrontational or accusatory.

Mediation may be painful at times, especially if your ex expresses desires that hurt you or that do not make sense to you. Divorce is rarely easy, even in the best of situations, so take care of yourself emotionally and mentally throughout the process.

Another divorce mediation communication tip is to avoid making assumptions. If you need clarification on something, ask.

It can also help to have a divorce settlement checklist to ensure all the issues you want to talk about actually do get discussed. A checklist can keep the talks focused.

Focus on the Best Interests of Children

You may need to resolve two main areas related to children in divorce mediation. No matter the area you’re discussing, focus on the best interests of the children. Often, these interests include having both parents actively involved in their lives.

These two main areas are the nuances of the parenting plan and child support determinations. Aside from children, you may be discussing the equitable distribution of marital assets and liabilities, and spousal maintenance.

Parenting plan details can quickly get complicated. This is especially true when one parent wants to relocate. Even a move 30 minutes away can change a lot of dynamics, depending on traffic, commute times, child dropoffs and pickups, and much more.

A few factors that may add complexity to child support discussions include the number of minor children and their ages. For example, one child might be aging out (turning 18) relatively soon.

Discussions may also cover issues such as extracurricular expenses and college costs. Illinois is a state in which divorced parents may be required to pay for their children’s college education (while married parents do not share this obligation). Price tags aside, disagreement on issues such as college gap years or taking four years versus six years to graduate can add more layers to these discussions.

The Don’ts of Divorce Mediation in Oakbrook Terrace, IL

There’s a lot you can do right in divorce mediation. There is also potential for missteps. Avoiding the following actions can help prevent adverse outcomes:

Don’t Hide Assets

Mediation relies on trust and open communication. Hiding assets undermines the process and creates a power imbalance. Hidden assets have a way of coming to light. Other reasons to not hide assets include:

  • It’s illegal. You face fines and penalties.
  • You risk losing the assets to the other party due to your actions when, before, equitable distribution may have applied.
  • The knowledge that you’re hiding assets can cause unconscious sneaky and shady behavior in other ways.
  • If (or more likely when) the hidden assets are uncovered, it results in a prolonged process and shattered trust. You lose credibility with everyone, including the court.

Don’t Bring Emotions into the Mediation Room

Strong emotions during divorce mediation can muddle the process. For example, intense feelings (anger, guilt, shame, fear, happiness, relief) can cloud judgment and decision-making. Emotions can result in impulsive or shortsighted choices.

They can also get in the way of communicating effectively. An emotional spouse may be more vulnerable to misunderstandings or likely to cause unnecessary tension. Compromising may be even more difficult.

Emotions can also turn what is supposed to be a rational and collaborative process into something confrontational. Emotions can also cause a spouse to perceive the mediator as biased. Emotions can make divorce mediation take much longer and add more stress.

For spouses who are parents, emotions may get in the way of prioritizing the children’s best interests. Parents should try their best to set their emotions aside, no matter how difficult it is, and focus on the well-being of their children.

Of course, emotions may surface at any time during mediation. It’s helpful to acknowledge them as part of open communication, but letting them disrupt the proceedings is not good. Finding outlets for intense emotions outside of mediation can help both spouses remain as level-headed and cooperative as possible in their talks.

Don’t Be Unprepared

Not being prepared is another common mistake people make with divorce mediation. Your divorce attorney can help you with preparations for your case.

You should have as much information and documentation as possible about your children’s schedules and other parenting matters, and your assets, debts, and finances.

A lack of information in just one area (or having misconceptions about issues due to a lack of preparation) can have ripple effects on the other areas. You may end up making decisions that are not in your best interests or the children’s. Preparation is a way of empowering yourself and reducing your stress and anxiety.

If you’re not prepared, your ex could see that as an indicator you are not taking the process seriously. This could undermine the earnestness of talks, too.

Being prepared helps the discussions stay on track. Preparation is also an excellent way to keep the divorce mediation sessions as cost-effective and streamlined as possible.

Uncontested divorce lawyer Denise Erlich is passionate about helping divorcing couples in the greater Chicagoland area transition to their new life as seamlessly as possible. Ms. Erlich patiently guides her clients through every step of the divorce process and provides clients with candid advice about their case and legal options, so they can make informed decisions about their future.

Years of Experience: More than 20 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
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