The conflicts that grow over time in a marriage can create seemingly unsurmountable barriers to amicably ending it. Not only are cash and property assets common points of contention, but the effects of a rancorous divorce on children can create emotional scars that last a lifetime.

One alternative to litigated divorce that is becoming more popular is mediated divorce. Divorce mediation in Illinois is much less expensive, and it also takes much less time than litigated divorce. The average hourly range for mediator services is $150 to $600, with the whole process reaching completion in 5 to 20 hours.

Without the added court costs and attorney fees of litigation, not to mention extended wait times before the case can go before a judge, mediation is becoming a more reasonable alternative. In addition, mediation is private. Many couples do not realize that once their divorce goes to court, it becomes part of the public record.

The stages of divorce mediation

There are generally five stages to divorce mediation. In the introductory phase, the mediator works with both sides to establish ground rules as well as a foundation for the process. Both sides offer perspective and background information to the mediator, including points of agreement and conflict.

In the next stage, information and inventory is collected so that all parties can see the assets and liabilities of the couple’s estate. The mediator will explain the state laws that determine division of property, child support and custody.

In the framing stage, the mediator will work with each side to clarify their priorities, values and goals, or “needs and interests”. As the goal of mediation is to allow both sides to come away from the process having met many, if not all, of their goals, this stage helps to clarify these needs in a way that makes compromise easier to handle.

Then comes the negotiation stage. Again, exploring options allows both sides to see more than one outcome, again providing a collaborative environment that allows flexibility in the negotiations. In the concluding stage, a tentative agreement is reached, and once both sides have agreed to the draft, a formal settlement agreement is prepared and filed with the court.

Although mediation is not always possible in a divorce, especially where there is a history of violence or abuse, it can be an attractive option for couples seeking an amicable closing of a life chapter. It helps to get experienced legal advice to examine your options.