In Cook County Circuit Court, mediation in domestic relations cases is governed by rule 13.4(e).http://www.cookcountycourt.org/Manage/RulesoftheCourt/ReadRule/tabid/73/ArticleId/2277/-13-4-Pre-Trial-Phase.aspx
Mediation is required when parents do not agree to the allocation of parental responsibilities, relocation and other non-child support related issues to their children. In Cook County, if the parents are not in agreement to pay for a private mediator, they will be referred to Family Mediation Services for mediation.
Mediation is a non-binding process by which a third-party, tries to assist the parties in coming to an agreement regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time. The goal of the mediator is to assist in identifying the issues, reducing misunderstandings, exploring and clarifying the parties’ respective interests and priorities, and identifying and exploring possible solutions that will satisfy the interests of all parties and thereby facilitate resolution of some or all of the issues in dispute.
After the parties participate in mediation, if they still cannot come to an agreement, the Court will then allow them to litigate their issues. In a lot of instances, if there are only minor disagreements remaining, the parties can usually resolve these issues with the assistance of the Judge through a pre-trial or a hearing, rather than a full trial. Another possibility is that the Court will appoint a Child Representative or Guardian Ad Litem, their role in the court can be reviewed in one of my previous posts:http://illinoislawforyou.com/the-role-of-child-representatives-and-guardian-ad-litems-how-they-vary-from-circuit-to-circuit/
I always recommend to my clients, if you can come to an agreement without the Courts assistance, it will make it a lot easier and less time consuming and possibly less expensive if you are being represented by counsel. However, if you must litigate, it is imperative to keep the best interests of your child(ren) at the center of why you are litigating.