Mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution are fast becoming a popular substitute for a standard courtroom divorce, especially for couples who still are able to maintain a good working relationship. However, it is not uncommon to see couples commencing a mediation without a real grasp of what it actually entails, especially if they are doing so post-decree, or after a divorce decree. While everyone’s experience will be slightly different, there are some things that remain the same and some that will differ from a pre-decree mediation.
Lots of Flexibility Pre-Decree
Finding a mediator in Illinois is usually not difficult, especially in the Chicago area. There are multiple organizations that field trained mediation professionals, some (but not all) of whom are also attorneys. You must choose one if the mediation is not specifically court-ordered, but the fee to hire a mediator is generally split between both parties—though if you prefer, one party may foot the bill in exchange for assets or another advantage. The decision is up to the couple, as are most in this process.
The bulk of mediation in Illinois is also usually done pre-decree—that is, before your divorce is officially final—but post-decree does happen and it is not frowned upon, generally speaking. The number of sessions, however, is up to you and your spouse; there is no plan or required number that a couple must complete in order to declare a mediation finished. Many couples are more encouraged to have multiple sessions because all communications stemming from a mediation (with rare exceptions) are privileged, meaning they cannot be used against the party making them in court or on another occasion.
Compared to pre-decree mediation, post-decree tends to be focused more on isolated issues rather than re-litigating the entire divorce. Mediation after a divorce decree has been signed is more about modifying any aspects of your original agreement that have become untenable or unfair. For example, you may have changed jobs since your original mediation and divorce decree signing, and the resultant pay cut may put the previously agreed-upon amount of child support or spousal support out of reach. Another common example is if something happens to one of your children which results in their needing long-term care. Mediation can be used to determine whether your ex-spouse will help with the costs and if so, how much.
One thing to remember is that post-decree mediation is never mandatory. Some people, despite good experiences, become wary of using mediation for post-decree matters, and while there is no need, it can be a relief to know that the option of filing in court to address a potential post-divorce modification of the divorce decree there. All a court needs is to see evidence of a substantial change in circumstances, and you have a good chance of obtaining the modification you seek.
Need Help Understanding Mediation?
While mediation is generally less complex than people fear, it can still be confusing. Our passionate DuPage County mediators and divorce attorneys can sit down with you and help determine your best option going forward. Contact the offices today to set up an initial consultation.