Illinois Supreme Court Rules require that parties in divorce and parentage cases MUST attend mediation when there are issues involving custody, visitation, or the removal of a child to another state. Every county’s court system has a part of their court systems that employs personnel to help families going through family law disputes. In my experience far too many people don’t take advantage of the wonderful opportunity that mediation presents to really short-circuit litigation and finish-up cases sooner rather than later.
Here are 3 tips to get the most out of child custody mediation:
- Show-Up. Granted this one is pretty basic but in some 30%-50% of the cases that we’re involved with one or both litigants don’t participate. And this not only is going to negatively color you to the judge in your case but it also might be the difference between your custody case being completed in 2 MONTHS vs. 2 YEARS.
- Be Prepared. I often see the most progress made in mediation when we actually have a client bring a proposed Custody Judgment that we have prepared to the mediation sessions. I’ve seen it where the mediator uses our Custody Judgment as the agenda for the mediation…that’s a powerful advantage. If you don’t have a full judgment ready to go, at a minimum bring some bullet points that lists your ‘must haves’ and the points on which you’re more flexible.
- Push to Make Some/Any Progress. In Cook County, after mediation is completed the mediator must send a written summary back to the Judge which tells her either: *full/*partial/*no agreement(s) were reached between the parties and then some of the specifics of said agreement(s) are also listed. In my experience, it’s extremely rare for parties who make the effort to genuinely participate in 2-3 half-day mediation sessions to not make considerable progress. Honestly, the 3 most common reports (in order of frequency) that we get back from the mediators after clients attend mediation are the following: 1) Full Agreement, 2) No Show, or 3) No Agreement. At a minimum sometimes it’s just therapeutic to clear the air with the other parent on various issues or old baggage.
Many of the mediators we deal with are educated and experienced professionals whose expertise can be a great resource for you, plus, they are FREE! Or actually they’re your tax dollars at work…so take advantage of your investment.