Using mediation during your Chicago child custody case is a form of a process called “alternative dispute resolution” or ADR. Private mediation is a great way to try to resolve the case and avoid the need to have a Judge decide the outcome. The mediator is someone who is not advocating for either party; they are a neutral third party. The goal of the mediator is to reach a resolution of the custody or divorce case, based on the facts and the law, that both parties can accept and live with.
Private mediation can be done with each party’s own attorney present during the mediation or without. If the attorney for each parent is also present with the parties and the mediator, this is called attorney-assisted mediation. Attorney-assisted mediation might be a good option for those who would like their attorney there to explain and debrief the mediation session with them. Otherwise, in most cases, mediation is just between the parties and the impartial mediator. Once a full agreement is reached in mediation, the mediator will prepare a document called a Memorandum of Understanding (or MOU), which contains the full agreement between the parties.
Benefits of Using Private Mediation in Child Custody Cases
So what are the benefits of using private mediation in your custody or divorce case? Here are just a few reasons to use mediation to resolve your case:
The cost of mediation is usually shared between the parents.
Ultimately, mediation has the potential to save both parties money. Going through mediation rather than the litigation process in court saves money the parties would have otherwise spent by each of them retaining their own attorney, paying their attorney fees throughout the case to negotiate and litigate on their behalf and draft documents, and on court filing fees and expenses. That being said, the mediation process, in some cases, might not always begin at the onset. Occasionally, it might take both parties or one party some time
The mediation process is faster than going through court.
Most of the time, private mediation and the entire mediation process goes much faster than trying to resolve the case in court. With private mediation, both parties usually want to be there and will timely exchange any required documents necessary to start mediation. Also, scheduling mediation sessions can generally happen much quicker than if you were litigating issues in court or even participating in mediation through the court system. You are paying the mediator for their services, so they are efficient when scheduling and getting sessions scheduled on days that work for all parties. If you go to court, you compete with hundreds of others for the soonest court date or mediation date, which can sometimes be months out. Mediation is generally as long as you and the other person want it to be, depending on how long it takes to get a final resolution.
Mediation is more successful for parents in the long run.
Statistically speaking, private mediation usually results in more successful agreements in the long run. That means after a parenting or child custody agreement is completed via mediation, the parties usually do not return to court later with compliance issues. Private mediation is a financial investment that both parties make voluntarily, knowing they are paying money for this process because they genuinely want to resolve the issues with the other party rather than argue in court. This gives both parents an incentive to come to a resolution they can both agree with and still agree with many years later. Also, in many cases, both parents can form a trusting bond with the mediator since they meet with them many times and discuss intricate details of their lives. This bond helps the parties believe that this person is trying to help them and reach an agreement for them both. This bond can help keep the agreement going strong in the future and result in fostering mutual respect between the parties.
Potential Drawbacks to Private Mediation
Ultimately, private mediation sounds like a great alternative to the standard courtroom experience. However, there could be some drawbacks to the process depending on the case, and the individuals involved, such as the following:
Both parties have to be emotionally ready to mediate their child custody issues.
To be able to mediate successfully with a private mediator, both parties have to emotionally be on the same level. Mediation is less likely to be successful if one party is not yet ready to accept that their relationship or marriage is over. Only when emotions are no longer clouding their minds can parents mediate successfully, with the clear intent to resolve their child custody-related issues, rather than seeking revenge or trying to repair a relationship through the mediation process.
You cannot investigate any suspicions you might have about the other party.
When you go to mediation, there is usually some form of an exchange of documents regarding whatever issues need to be resolved. When the documents are exchanged, you have to trust that the other party is being truthful in the exchange and providing accurate information. There is no chance to issue formal discovery requests, send subpoenas, or further gather discovery. If one person is hiding anything financial or parenting related, you likely won’t find out in the mediation process. If there are trust issues between the parties and what one or the other is disclosing, mediation might not be the right direction for you.
Despite having potential challenges, private mediation is usually extremely beneficial for parents facing child custody disputes. If you are considering mediation, reach out to our Chicago child custody lawyers to find out if private mediation is the right direction for you.