To start divorce mediation, consider . . .

Do you want to mediate your divorce?

Do you want to start divorce mediation in Illinois? Then consider these tips. As a divorce mediator who is also a lawyer, I know how critical it can be to get moving without undue delay. So here are some tips on starting divorce mediation in Illinois.

Tip 1: Ask your spouse

If so, that’s great. But divorce mediation it just like a tango. It takes two.

So if you think starting divorce mediation is a good idea – you might be right. But your spouse must agree to mediate your divorce.

Some people are very willing to start mediation because they know it can be a way to avoid undue conflict. Others – not so much. Sometimes you can convince a reluctant person to mediate by helping them learn about mediation.

Tip 2: Understand what mediation is – and isn’t

Mediation is a process by which a neutral person (the mediator), helps one or more people reach an agreement.

In mediation, I discuss all aspects of a divorce with the two spouses. The objective is to agree on everything so that the divorce can proceed as an “uncontested divorce” – one that is totally by agreement.

Mediation is not a substitute for legal advice.

For example, even though I am a divorce lawyer, I do not supply legal advice during a mediation. I give both parties information – but I do not provide advice. Advice is essentially something that is used – in the context of divorce – to help one person gain an advantage over the other. Because a mediator is neutral, the mediator cannot help one person benefit at the other’s expense.

Also, ethical mediators do not draft for you every document needed in your divorce. That’s because there is bias inherent in drafting legal agreements. And again, because a mediator is neutral, the mediator cannot be biased.

When a mediation I conduct is successful, the result is a memorandum of understanding (MOU) which outlines the terms of the agreement. At that point, the parties can use that MOU as the basis for an uncontested divorce in Illinois.

Tip 3: Be realistic

Mediation is about agreement. The more realistic you are, the more likely you are to reach an agreement.

As a practicing divorce lawyer who is also a mediator, I know what the laws are and I know what happens in court.

That means I can give people information that will help them make realistic choices.

The more realistic people are, the more likely they are to reach an agreement during a successful divorce mediation in Illinois.

Tip 4: Use a mediator who is also a divorce lawyer

There a lot of divorce mediators out there. In fact, I met types of mediator-wannabees when I went to a mediation class run by Northwestern University. It was pretty sad. Let me give you a glimpse of the type of characters in attendance:

  1. Social workers and addiction counselors: Now I don’t have anything against these people generally, but one thing I do know is that these people have no business helping others negotiate legal agreements. Divorce mediation is not therapy. Those people in my class knew almost nothing about divorce law, and it seems they hoped to pick up just enough to fake their way through mediation. Ugh.
  2. Other professionals: There are also so non-therapy-related professionals. For example, one guy had moved from the East Coast to get in on the mediation game here in Chicago. His pitch was that he knew a lot about finances, so he could mediate divorces. But guess what? A divorce mediation is not a financial analysis project. People don’t hire divorce mediators to conduct financial analysis. The scary thing is that this guy claims to have so many offices it’s as if he cloned himself 10 times over. And I’ve seen this particular guy ask really ignorant questions about the law. Stay away.
  3. Lawyers – but not divorce lawyers: If you are going to hire someone to mediate a legal dispute – you should use a mediator who is also a lawyer. But even better than that, you should use a divorce lawyer to mediator a divorce. As I explained above, a mediator who is also a divorce lawyer will not give advice during a mediation. But a divorce mediator who is also a divorce lawyer will be able to provide the most accurate information about divorce lawyers, knows what happens in court, and can help people avoid problems that often come up after a divorce is finalized. In contrast, lawyer who has never practiced in divorce law will probably not be a very good divorce mediator. They just don’t have the experience.

Many types of people get into divorce mediation in Illinois. They think it’s easy money. But many of them are not close to being qualified. Watch out.

About the author: David Wolkowitz is an Illinois Divorce mediator and a family law attorney. He mediates divorce, child custody, and child visitation disputes to help spouses and parents reach agreement without litigation.