Illinois law requires both parents attempt to resolve child custody issues in mediation sessions before the court will step in to resolve the dispute. Typically, parties are required to attend multiple mediation sessions before they can bring their dispute to court. Mediation is the process by which both parties sit down with a trained neutral party to attempt to resolve a dispute. Mediation sessions can occur between both parents, and with or without attorneys present. The process tends to be informal. In cases in which the parties choose to attend mediation without the assistance of attorneys, the following tips may be helpful for parents to get the most out of these child custody and child support mediation sessions.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Illinois Child Custody Mediation Sessions
- Make a budget: Mediation sessions go more smoothly when the custodial parent knows how much to ask for in child support. This calculation goes beyond merely requesting the amounts provided in Illinois state child support guidelines. Custodial parents can request a more accurate amount of child support when they know and can show evidence for how much they spend on childcare and related expenses. As the custodial parent, it is helpful to make a budget a month or so before the child support mediation and then record how much is actually spent on child care expenses such as transportation costs, insurance premiums, increased housing and utility costs, education costs, tuition and fees, and extra-curricular and recreational expenses.
- Gather necessary documents: Collect documents such as bank statements, documents relating to real property and accompanying expenses, receipts, job offer letters, stock or bond information, insurance policies or other documents that relate to financial and other information you may be discussing during mediation sessions. These documents may be helpful to refer to or consult during the meetings.
- Brainstorm your options: Brainstorm your ideal solutions and second choice solutions about key issues that will be addressed during the session. Further, it is helpful to think through your priorities on the issues. Be ready to discuss which issues are the very most important to you and why. You should also be able to identify the issues you are most willing to compromise on and to what extent you are willing to compromise.
- Know the mediator’s role: As in professional situations, it is important to know your audience. The job of a mediator is to listen to both parties, facilitate discussion, and help both parties towards working out their differences. Mediators will not attempt to make factual judgments and will not make binding rulings about the discussed issue. As such, it is more helpful in the mediation session to speak openly and honestly about the issues at stake.
When done properly, mediation can save parties hundreds of dollars in attorney’s fees and can also help couples identify, think through, and articulate their child custody-related issues in detail. If mediation fails, divorce litigation is often the next alternative. Whether informal mediation or divorce litigation will provide a more helpful venue in resolving your case is a highly fact-specific question. At Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C., we invite you to contact your office and arrange a consultation with one of our experienced Illinois divorce attorneys to further discuss preparing for the child custody and child support mediation. We can be reached by phone at (877) 889-4515.