Below are some of our most frequently asked questions.
Q: How is a mediated divorce with Shared Mediation different from a typical divorce?
A: In a typical divorce, each spouse states their position through attorneys and, absent a settlement, leaves it to a judge to decide the future of their finances, property, and children. In a mediated divorce, the spouses sit with a neutral third party who guides them through conversations needed to make these decisions for themselves. Most divorces, whether mediated or not, end in settlement. The main difference with mediation is that a settlement is sought from the beginning with both parties realizing that settlement is in the best interest of their children (more peaceful), bank accounts (avoid drawn out court battles from the start), and future (mediated divorces tend to take less than a quarter of the time a litigated divorce takes).
Q: Why doesn't everyone mediate rather than litigate?
A: In divorce, emotions are often raw and spouses aren't always at the same place with respect to the desire to end the marriage. If one party is not willing to negotiate at all because they aren't ready to end the marriage, the mediation won't work. Likewise, if one party is focused on hurting their spouse rather than finding a peaceful way to move forward, the mediation won't work. To successfully mediate a divorce, both parties need to come to the table with the shared understanding and agreement to end their marriage and the shared desire to do it as peacefully, economically, and expediently as possible.
Q: Is my case suitable for mediation?
A: Any case where the participants are ready and able to voice their own needs and interests with the assistance of a neutral third party is suitable for mediation. Relationships with ongoing patterns of domestic violence include a power dynamic that interferes with this process. Therefore, Shared Mediation doesn't mediate cases with ongoing domestic violence.
Q: We can't even look at each other, much less talk. How will we agree on anything?
A: That's the beauty of mediation. Few people who are in the midst of divorcing find it easy to reach a sustainable agreement without help. A mediator will skillfully guide you through each issue that must be addressed in your divorce and assist you in identifying your needs and interests pertaining to those issues so you can craft an agreement that works for both of you.
Q: Will we need a lawyer?
A: You are not required to use a lawyer's services to legally end your marriage in Illinois. Shared Mediation recommends, however, that you consult an attorney to answer questions you have about your legal rights, to review the finalized agreement reached in mediation, and to file a legal form of it in court. If you need a referral, we know many mediation-friendly lawyers who are accustomed to working in this limited way with our clients.
Q: Can you be our lawyer?
A: No. Although some mediators at Shared Mediation are licensed attorneys, they will not be your lawyer. Your mediator is an impartial third party whose job is to facilitate a conversation to help you reach an agreement that works for you. When acting as your mediator, they are not professionally permitted to also represent you. If at any time you are interested in hiring an attorney to represent you in litigation, you may do so.
Q: Can we bring our lawyers with us to mediation?
A: Yes. If at any time you prefer to have an attorney attend your mediation session with you, you may. We ask that you notify all parties ahead of time so they also may be represented if they choose.
Q: If we attend mediation without lawyers, how will we know what the law requires with regard to our agreement?
A: Your mediator will ensure that you are addressing every issue that the court wants agreement on in order to grant your divorce. The mediator may give you legal information (i.e. a child support calculator, spousal maintenance calculator, statutory guidelines for division of property, standards the court uses to assess parenting agreements, etc.) but not legal advice ( i.e. "That's a great deal for you, you should agree to it!")
Q: How long until the divorce is finalized?
A: Although each case is different, a mediated divorce is often finalized within two months of reaching an agreement (compared to an average of eighteen months for a litigated divorce.) Reaching agreement on all issues typically requires two to four 2-hour sessions with a mediator.
Q: How much does it cost?
A: Our billing rate for mediation services is $250 per hour, due at the time of service. A typical session lasts two hours. A non-refundable flat-fee of $500 for preparation of the Memorandum is also due at the first session. This fee is non-refundable because the mediator begins preparation of the Memorandum immediately after the first session.
Q: Do you take credit cards?
A: Yes. You can pay with Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Quick Pay, Zelle, Venmo, check or cash.
Q: How will our divorce affect our children?
A: Divorce can be a difficult change for everyone in the family. Children have different needs during divorce than adults, and children's needs vary depending on their ages, personalities, and emotional make-up. The good news, is that children whose parents mediate rather than litigate their divorce benefit from the more peaceful nature of the separation. Please ask your mediator for resources for helping children through divorce.
Q: Our financial and property situation is complicated, can you help?
A: The mediation process is the same whether finances or other issues are simple or complicated. We have tools to help you gather all of your financial information and the skills to guide you through each issue that must be addressed in separating your finances. If you need extra financial help we can refer you to a financial advisor who specializes in divorce.