If you are going through a divorce, it can be difficult just to be in the presence of your spouse – let alone to meet with them, and attempt to work out an agreement via mediation. It can be even more difficult when children are involved, especially if child custody is the subject that you disagree on. As difficult as it may sound, though, participating in a mediation is often your best chance of arriving at an agreement that you both can live with.
How a Child Custody Mediation Works
Mediation is a process in which the parties in a dispute meet, and attempt to resolve their differences with the help of a mediator. The mediator is an impartial third party. The process is confidential, regardless of whether the parties reach an agreement.
In a child custody case in Illinois, mediation may be ordered by a court if the parents are unable to reach an agreement on their own. For example, in the courts in Dupage County, Illinois, there is a Mediation Referral Program. (Mediation is also mentioned in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, which states that courts may order mediation to determine whether joint custody is appropriate.)
There are also some cases in which parents will choose to mediate, even though the court has not required it. In these cases, the mediator is chosen jointly by the parents. If the mediation is court-ordered, the judge may choose a mediator on his or her own, but it is also possible that the judge will let the parents decide on a mediator themselves.
Why Would I Want to Mediate?
Mediation is a way of avoiding two of the terrible drawbacks of letting a child custody case play out in the courts – time and expense. Simply meeting up with the other parent for a few hours of mediation can save huge amounts of money in legal bills. It can also prevent your child from being placed in the middle of a long court battle.
Even if the mediation is court-ordered, that does not mean that the participants are forced to arrive at an agreement. Any agreements that are made are strictly voluntary. It is very common for parents to enter these mediations thinking, “This is probably useless; there’s no way we’re going to agree on anything” – only to come to an agreement that same day.
Participants in child custody mediation often worry that what they say in the mediation will come back to haunt them in court. However, these worries are groundless. With the mediation being completely confidential, what is said will not get back to the judge.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of mediation is that the participants can tailor their agreement to their needs. When it comes to child custody agreements, it is incredibly important that the schedule is reasonable for both parties – and in a mediation, you can reject any agreement that doesn’t work for you. And if you come to an agreement, it has better odds of proving successful than an arrangement designed by a judge.
The Role of an Attorney
The parties in a mediation often bring their lawyers to the mediation with them – and in fact, many mediators recommend this. Just like in the courtroom, a mediation is a place where it helps to have someone present who will represent your interests. The family law attorneys at Fay, Farrow & Associates, P.C. in Naperville, Illinois, have considerable experience representing their clients in mediations. Call us today at (630) 961-0060 for a consultation and for assistance with your case.