A mediation of a divorce or legal separation likely will take several sessions. Sessions are typically scheduled for two hours per Session, subject to adjustment. Parties should each obtain independent legal counsel to assist and advise them throughout the mediation. In general, the issues to be discussed for resolution typically involve the following.
Mr. Stevens is a Court-Certified Mediator, CIrcuit Court of Cook County
Domestic Relations Division
Illinois law on divorce changed significantly at the beginning of 2016. The law now provides substantial leeway for married parties to fashion the terms of a divorce or separation by mutual agreement -- and thereby avoid much of the cost, time, and emotional distress of obtaining a divorce through formal contested litigation.
Please contact Kent Stevens to discuss your mediation options.
Couples without children may be able to resolve all issues for a divorce by written agreement filed for approval by the court. For couples divorcing with children, the new law not only encourages agreement on many parenting issues, it requires parties to file parenting plans, and directs the court in certain circumstances to require parties to participate in a mediation in an effort to reach a mutually acceptable agreement on parenting issues.
Mediation is a process where a neutral third-party (“mediator”) meets with parties to help them identify and constructively discuss issues that need resolution, and assists in generating informed options for resolving issues and concluding a mutually satisfactory settlement agreement. Mediation is characterized as an entirely voluntary process. Even if a court requires a person to participate in a mediation, continued participation in a mediation is voluntary and no resolution will be imposed on any participant. Any resolution will be entirely mutual and voluntary. Mediation is also private. Only the parties directly involved in the dispute are involved in the discussions.
Mediation is also confidential unless the participants and the mediators agree it would be beneficial or there are compelling reasons to limit confidentiality. Mediation is directed to informed decision-making, where informed parties take responsibility for their conflict and for self-determined crafting of forward-looking solutions.
Kent R. Stevens
Attorney at Law & Mediator
J.D., M.P.A., LL.M.
Decisions involving minor children must be based on the best interest of the children. This has always been the case in Illinois. The new law advances this point by largely eliminating references to “custody” disputes and “custody” awards, and instead seeks to:
“Facilitate parental planning and agreement about the children’s upbringing and allocation of parenting time and other parental responsibilities.”
Parents seeking a divorce are now required to submit to the court a formal parenting plan concerning the future care of minor children. One of the key points of a parenting plan is an allocation between the parents of significant decision-making responsibilities, including allocation of authority to make decision on:
Education, including choice of schools
Health care and treatment decisions
Parenting plans must also address a child’s living arrangements and allocate parenting time. The plan on parenting time needs to include, among other things:
A schedule that designates in which parent’s home the minor child will reside on given dates, especially designating notable dates such as holidays, school holidays, religious holidays, vacation, birthdays and dates of significance to the family (or a formula or method for determining the schedule);
Each parent’s rights to medical, dental, and other records;
The child’s residential address for school enrollment purposes;
Provisions for communications between the parents and between a parent and a parent and child when the child is at the other parent’s residence;
Provision for resolving issues arising from a parent’s future relocation;
Provisions for a parent’s exercise of the “right of first refusal” in circumstances where a parent intends to leave the child with a substitute child-care provider for a significant period of time.
In most circumstances a divorce requires an identification, valuation, and equitable distribution of property. The parties can engage in formal litigation to resolve these issues, but such an approach can be extremely expensive, protracted, and unsatisfactory to both parties. Mediation of property issues – as an alternative to litigation or to alleviate the time, cost, and stress of existing litigation -- will likely involve a discussion on the use, possession and ownership of a residence or other real estate – including its possible sale or transfer; the valuation and division of the couples’ personal property such as household furnishings, cars, boats, collectables and other valuables; the identification and valuation of other assets – including pensions and retirement savings, stocks, stock options, bank accounts, inheritances, and business ownership. The process will also address debts including credit card debt, car loans, mortgages, equity loans, and student loans. Again, these issues can be resolved by contested litigation, but the end result can be extremely expensive and not satisfactory to anyone. Mediation is directed to a voluntary, informed, and mutually satisfactory resolution of the issues by agreement.
Mr. Stevens has certificates from the Northwestern University School of Professional Studies for mediation skills and divorce mediation skills. Please call for information about how the mediation process might be structured to address your situation.
There are many forms available online and from the courts for parenting plans. These forms can certainly be useful. However, parents will want to invest considerable effort in fashioning a plan that is focused on the best interests of their child in their circumstances. Discussions to formulate and customize such a plan will often include consideration of the emotional and developmental needs of the child, the resources of the parents, the safety of the child and parents, issues of consistency and stability, and factors such as parenting-style differences, disciplinary differences, conflict between the parents, and parenting values.
“To promote amicable settlement of disputes between parties to a marriage attendant upon the dissolution of their marriage, the parties may enter into an agreement containing provisions for disposition of any property owned by either of them, maintenance of either of them, support, parental responsibility allocation of their children, and support of their children [for certain expenses such as education] after the children attain majority.” 750 ILCS 5/502
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Source: Divorce Mediation (Gray, Powers, 2016), Northwestern University School of Professional Studies.