Frequently Asked Questions
- What is mediation?
- Why choose mediation?
- What training and experience do you have as a mediator?
- Who will be present in mediation sessions?
- What is discussed during mediation?
- What information must I disclose in mediation?
- Is mediation confidential? What does that mean?
- How long will mediation take?
- How long are the mediation sessions?
- Will we meet weekly with the mediator?
- Is a mediated agreement binding?
- If I use mediation, will I need to go to court?
- Will I need a lawyer in order to use mediation?
- What is collaborative divorce?
- How much will mediation cost?
1. What is mediation?Back to top
Mediation is a way to help people resolve their disputes and plan for their future in a cooperative rather than a combative way. If you have children, it is a proven way to put their needs first. With the help of a neutral mediator parties are able to find and explore solutions they may never have considered. The mediator understands the pain involved in conflict and is able to gently keep the parties focused on the future rather than past and current emotional pain. Mediation is time and cost efficient compared to other forms of dispute resolution.
2. Why choose mediation?Back to top
No one knows your situation better than you. If you have children, you know their unique personality and needs. You know and love them more than anyone – attorney, judge, guardian ad litem, mental health expert or child professional – those who will determine your children’s future if they become the final decision makers. Any plan you make in mediation can be tailor-made to fit your unique circumstances. Because it is your plan, both parties are more apt to keep it rather than relying upon the courts, police, etc. to enforce judgments down the road.
3. What training and experience do you have as a mediator?Back to top
I received my training as a mediator from the Northwestern University School of Continuing Education. I have done over 200 mediations in this area since becoming a court approved mediator in Champaign County and the surrounding area. I have over 40 years of experience working with adults and youth in a variety of settings. I belong to the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts as my professional organization. I am required to participate in continuing education in order to remain a court approved mediator.
4. Who will be present in mediation sessions?Back to top
The mediator and both spouses, or both individuals if they were never married. Additionally, the mediator can speak with each party individually and even separate the individuals in different rooms and travel between those rooms in “shuttle mediation.”
5. What is discussed during mediation?Back to top
In a typical mediation, the following issues must be addressed in order to generate an agreement that may be submitted to the court:
- Allocation of parental responsibilities for the children
- Major decision-making regarding the children
- Parenting time for each parent
- A holiday and vacation parenting schedule
- Any other issues of importance to the parents to ensure safety and well-being for their children
6. What information must I disclose in mediation?Back to top
Mediation is a full disclosure process. All issues concerning the children regarding their safety and well-being are to be discussed in mediation. Should information be withheld during the mediation process, any agreement reached may not be valid.
7. Is mediation confidential? What does that mean?Back to top
Unlike court processes which are open to the public, mediation is a private process. The Agreement to Mediate that you will sign at the beginning of mediation includes a confidentiality agreement. The mediator is bound by law to keep confidential any matters discussed in mediation except as explained to you by the mediator. Normally, the mediator destroys their notes shortly after the completion of the mediation.
8. How long will mediation take?Back to top
Because each separation and divorce is different, the length of mediation may vary. However, most parents are able to develop a parenting plan in one session, which may last up to three hours. When an agreement is reached the mediator will prepare a Memorandum of Understanding which outlines all of the agreements made in mediation. Mediation is a voluntary process and any party, including the mediator, may end it at any time.
9. How long are the mediation sessions?Back to top
Normally, mediation sessions last from 1 ½ to 3 hours and are scheduled to accommodate the couple’s needs and available time. Some people prefer longer sessions while others find that shorter sessions are more productive.
10. Will we meet weekly with the mediator?Back to top
At the beginning of the mediation process you will identify the issues that need to be decided in order to separate or divorce. Sometimes people need time to think between sessions and the opportunity to talk with family and friends. Mediation is not a high pressure or rushed process; quite the opposite. Sessions will be scheduled to meet your goals, including working quickly if there are urgent decisions to be made, or a desire to move through the process as quickly as possible.
11. Is a mediated agreement binding?Back to top
When you are involved in a separation, divorce or another family issue that is filed in court, any agreement you reach may be filed with the court. Your attorney can help you understand how this works and what your options are. Generally the court reviews the agreement to assure that it conforms to established standards, such as child support guidelines and, where it doesn’t, what special circumstances exist.
12. If I use mediation, will I need to go to court?Back to top
Using mediation in order to obtain a divorce will require you to file in court. However, if you are able to make mutually acceptable agreements regarding your issues of property, finances, and parenting if children are involved, and the court accepts your settlement, then it is unlikely that you will have to make many, or any, court appearances. This is something to discuss with your attorney. As always, the more you do outside of court to decide how you want to handle your separation or divorce, the better.
13. Will I need a lawyer in order to use mediation?Back to top
If you are using mediation in preparation for a divorce, the mediator will highly recommend that each spouse be represented by his and her own attorney. Using mediation, though, will likely mean that you will use fewer legal services and those you use will be different than if you did not use mediation. Your attorney can provide you with guidance, legal counsel and draft documents in the form required for filing with the court.
14. What is collaborative divorce?Back to top
Collaborative divorce is a process where the attorneys and neutral experts, such as mediators, financial advisors, and/or child specialists, help the parties reach their own settlement for a divorce outside of court. If the parties are not able to reach an agreement, the attorneys may not represent them in court. Collaborative divorce attorneys and child specialists must receive special training in order to offer collaborative divorce. There are a number of local attorneys trained in collaborative divorce and I am trained both as a mediator and as a child specialist in collaborative divorce.
15. How much will mediation cost?Back to top
The fee for the initial mediation session, which may last up to three hours, is $400. This is normally split between the parents, thus $200 for each spouse or separating parent. This initial fee also covers the writing time to prepare the Memorandum of Understanding. Occasionally more than one session is needed. This might be the case if the mediator interviews the children. After the first session, the fees are $125/hour for the actual time involved, thus $62.50/hour for each spouse or separating parent. Costs for mediation are significantly less than when each party hires an attorney to represent them in a divorce without using mediation.