As discussed in a previous blog, a contested divorce can be very costly in terms of both time and money. An article in Chicago Magazine estimates that a typical contested divorce costs an average of $20,000 to $25,000. In addition to spending down their assets, the parties will spend months or even years in court. That is why more and more parties are moving toward alternative options outside of the traditional litigation process.
One of the most common forms of alternative dispute resolution is mediation.
In contrast to the typical litigation process, a mediated divorce may take only a few months and may cost significantly less in attorneys’ fees and discovery expenses. There are also many other benefits gained by achieving a divorce through mediation, like maintaining a good relationship with your former spouse for the sake of the children.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a process where a neutral third party assists the couple in reaching a settlement by facilitating communication. Because the process is informal, the participants are not constrained by courtroom barriers to communication, such as the protocols that govern when each party may speak.
Whereas the litigation process is contentious, the mediation process can be collaborative; the couple engages in a problem-solving process with the aid of the mediator to find a solution that will satisfactorily meet each party’s interests. The mediator does this by helping the couple identify the issues that are preventing them from reaching an agreement and opening lines of communication.
Other Benefits of Mediation
In addition to the lower costs, mediation has several other advantages over litigation in the divorce context.
Mediation helps foster a positive relationship between the couple, even in the face of contentious divorce proceedings. While the emotionally-charged nature of the divorce process may compel some couples to desire a complete severance of ties, in reality their interaction is unlikely to end when the divorce proceedings end. The problem-solving nature of mediation reframes issues from “me versus him/her” to “us versus the problem.” For example, a mediator could reframe a dispute over a child custody arrangement by helping the couple focus on what is best for the child rather than the parents’ personal feelings toward the other parent.
Mediated settlements also tend to result in better outcomes for couples because the parties actually control their own destiny. In litigation, the Court’s opinion and judgment is substituted for that of the parties and the parties have no say in the outcome. On the other hand, a mediated settlement is created by the couple, for the couple and will result in a divorce judgment that takes into consideration the needs and the desires of the parties.
Finally, because the court system is public domain, divorce proceedings are open to anyone who wants to sit in and learn about a couple’s private affairs. Mediation is private and confidential; therefore the couple can discuss their marital issues behind closed doors instead of parading them in the public eye.
Contact a Family Law Attorney
Consulting an experienced Illinois family law attorney can help you decide if mediation is the right option for you. An attorney can assist you in preparing for mediation and answer questions about the process. Contact Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C. today for a consultation. We have offices in Oak Brook and Naperville, and we are also free to help residents in many nearby communities.