Who gets the kids on St. Patrick’s Day / Thanksgiving / Christmas? What time should visitation end on Sundays when school is in session? Who gets to make the decision about choosing a pediatrician, enrolment in extracurricular activities, and engaging in religious practices?
These questions can swarm a family law court with a multitude of sub-issues that can make a prolonged contested custody litigation draining for the wallet and damaging to the children. After centuries of letting parents (and their attorneys) settle each question in court, the Illinois Supreme Court Rules 900-946 were added in the last decade to try and reach a more efficient resolution through mandatory mediation.
Mediation is essentially a process where both parties submit to an independent neutral, who listens to each side and then crafts a decision. This decision then goes before the judge for approval. A mediation can resolve all the sub-issues that come up in a custody battle in a fraction of the time, for a fraction of the cost, and without tying up the judge from moving through a busy caseload.
Of course, mediation is sometimes the wrong answer; this is why Illinois Supreme Court Rule 905 allows courts to excuse parties from mediation, if it is inappropriate. This may be justified by family violence, mental health problems, alcohol and drug abuse, or other circumstances where getting the parties to sit still and work with the mediator might not have any chance of real success.
For the most part, mediation would be a good idea even if it weren’t mandatory, simply to avoid a huge lawyer bill; however, taking an attorney with you to a mediation is not only available, but an excellent way to ensure that correct procedure is followed and that every important issue is covered. My office not only handles custody cases, but all the numerous little arguments that come with it.
In any case, it’s best to plan for mediation carefully, because the outcome generally becomes the custody order that governs the next few years of your parenting life, and determines whether the future holds a harmonious transition, or constant battles over minutiae.
DISCLAIMER: Please do not prepare your own documents / filings after reading this blog, without consulting an attorney first about your specific situation. I make no representations or guarantees here as to the applicability of any claim in your specific situation. This blog is ADVERTISING MATERIAL only, and should not be relied upon as legal advice, especially if you are not an Illinois resident. Please contact me if you have a legal question or concern, as no attorney-client agreement will exist between myself and any readers of this blog unless it is signed in writing.
—Photo by Chiltepinster (Wikipedia) used under CC attribution license—