Illinois Divorce Mediation Guide

Divorce Mediation Illinois.jpgFrank Sinatra once famously sang, “My kind of town, Chicago is” and we couldn’t agree more. I guess that’s why we decided to not only expand our practice to Illinois in 2011, but to move our residence here as well.

In the years we’ve been practicing in Illinois, we’ve seen tremendous growth in the use of divorce mediation by area couples. In fact, one of the most popular local searches that lead people to our website is "Can I get a divorce in Illinois without a lawyer?"

That confirms what we already know - more and more smart Illinois couples are seeking a more peaceful and cost-effective alternative to the emotionally devastating and financially ruinous process of an attorney-driven divorce.

And that alternative is divorce mediation.

Illinois Office Locations & Online Divorce Mediation

Illinois Divorce Mediation Locations.pngIn Illinois, we meet with couples in the following locations:

Chicago - The Loop:
200 S Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60606 | (312) 583-7436

Chicago - Lincoln Park:
979 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60642 | (773) 312-3289

1363 Shermer Rd #331, Northbrook, IL 60062 | (847) 897-4687

1717 N Naper Blvd #200, Naperville, IL 60563 | (331) 472-0670

1603 Orrington Ave, Evanston, IL 60201 | (847) 868-9392

If meeting with us face-to-face is challenging due to personal or professional demands, you or your spouse lives out of state, or you’re simply not located near one of our local locations, you can still work with us using our innovative online divorce mediation program.

If you and your spouse have agreed to divorce and you both want to mediate, book an initial meeting for the two of you.

book a mediation appointment

In this guide, you'll find information on:

  • How divorce mediation is conducted in Illinois;
  • The issues that need to be resolved in an Illinois divorce;
  • Illinois divorce mediation resources;
  • And how to get started mediating your divorce with us.

How is Divorce Mediation in Illinois Conducted?

In Illinois, divorce mediation may be conducted privately or publicly, depending on whether you and your spouse choose to mediate first or hire attorneys first.

Illinois Divorce Mediation.jpgIf you take the preferred path and choose to mediate first, you would hire a private divorce mediation service like ours, typically before you file with the courts.

Together we would identify, discuss, negotiate and resolve all of the issues surrounding your divorce privately, confidentially and without the use of attorneys, if you so choose.

We’d draft up all of your agreements, gather the required forms, worksheets and discovery documents, and then send you to the filing phase where you’d complete your divorce through the courts.

On the other hand, if you choose to go the attorney route first, you'd likely be sent to court-ordered mediation.

Yes, you read that correctly – many counties in Illinois, including the largest of them all - Cook, now have court-ordered mediation whereby you’ll be required to engage in custody and parenting time mediation and economic issue mediation which are now offered through the courts.

And while we’re always supportive of couples who mediate, no matter what route they took to get there, there are a number of shortcomings with going the court-ordered mediation route:

  • First, you don’t get to choose your mediator like you would with private mediation. So you could end up with a mediator you don’t like, or you’re not comfortable working with.
  • Second, the mediators on the court roster may not be the most experienced. The only requirement to become a court-ordered mediator is to take a 40-hour divorce mediation training class. So many new mediators get their start mediating for the courts and have little or no "real-world" experience.
  • Finally, what if your issues are so complex that even if the mediator isn't fresh out of training, they aren’t experienced handling unique issues like yours? In that case, mediation will become a waste of time and now you’ll have to wait months for a court date. When you could have resolved all of your issues in private mediation long before that.

What are The Issues That Need to be Resolved in an Illinois Divorce?

For couples with no children or grown children, there are two main issues that need to be resolved in an Illinois divorce. For couples with minor children, there are four:

The Parenting Plan

Illinois Parenting Plans.pngIn Illinois, issues of the allocation of parental responsibilities and determination of timesharing must be agreed upon and drafted into the parenting plan.

The parenting plan covers all aspects of how you will co-parent your children once you’re divorced including where the children will spend nights, weekends, and holidays, as well as how you and your ex will engage in decision making on matters such as education, religion, and medical issues to name but a few.

Because there is very little guidance on how to create a balanced and effective parenting plan, the help of an experienced and professional mediator is critical in this very gray area.

To learn more about how parenting plans work and why they’re the most important issue you’ll face in your divorce, please read: Divorce with Kids: The Importance of a Good Parenting Plan.

Child Support

Illinois Child Support.pngHow child support is determined varies greatly state-by-state, and can be changed from year-to-year. In fact, in July of 2017, Illinois is making a major change to its Illinois child support guidelines.

Previously, Illinois used something called the "percentage of obligers income model" whereby a flat percentage of the paying party's net income was given to the recipient spouse based on the number of children the parties had together.

Now, Illinois is moving to an "income shares" model which uses a number of factors to determine a basic child support amount, and allocates a portion of that amount to each parent.

Much like with the previous model, it is non-taxable, and the basic child support amount in Illinois excludes a number of other "extraordinary expenses" such as college and extra-curricular activities which must be negotiated separately.

Determining child support in Illinois is not as simple as running a calculator and coming up with an amount, as there is a lot left out of the child support guidelines in Illinois. And given how infrequently some websites update their information, you risk making costly mistakes not only because this is a very complex issue to begin with, but also if it turns out you used an out-of-date calculator.

That’s why it’s important to work with a mediator with a financial background who is up-to-date on the latest Illinois child support guidelines. To ensure your children get the financial support they need and don’t become the economic victims of your divorce.

To learn more about how child support works in Illinois, please read: Safeguarding Your Children with Child Support in Illinois.

Spousal Support

Illinois Maintenance.pngIn Illinois, the payment of money from one ex-spouse to another is called maintenance.  Some states refer to this as alimony, spousal maintenance or spousal support.

Maintenance in Illinois is different from child support in that it is to be used by the recipient spouse to assist with their expenses and not the children's, and it is a taxable event.

But like with child support, there is an Illinois maintenance guideline which was issued by the state in 2015 in an attempt to normalize maintenance awards throughout the state. Guidelines for maintenance are rare in the US, with only a handful of states having one.

Now, just because there is a guideline to determine maintenance in Illinois, it doesn't mean it's useful in all situations. In fact, there are significant limitations to the Illinois Maintenance Guidelines.

That's why we help our client couples negotiate and come to agreement on an amount and duration of maintenance they each find fair without the use of the Illinois maintenance guideline. And we've been doing so with great success for years.

You can choose to deviate from the guideline if you both agree to do so. And that's where having an experienced Illinois divorce mediator with a financial background to guide you really comes in handy.

To learn more about how maintenance works in Illinois, please read: Determining Alimony in Illinois.

Equitable Distribution

Equitable Distribution Illinois.pngEquitable distribution is the process by which divorcing couples divide their marital assets and liabilities. And is typically the last issue a mediating couple will need to discuss and resolve in their Illinois divorce.

Illinois is an equitable distribution state. Meaning couples can come to any agreement they find “fair and equitable” when it comes to dividing their marital assets and liabilities. Illinois is not a community property state where assets and liabilities would be split 50-50.

So how do you determine what's fair when there's little in the way of formulas or rules to guide you?

A good start is to work with an experienced mediator with a financial background as this part of the divorce process can not only prove difficult, but costly, as there are a significant number of mistakes that can be made during this part of the process.

Determining what marital property is, what’s the difference between marital and pre-marital property, and what factors are taken into account when discussing equitable distribution all factor into the negotiations.

To learn more about how equitable distribution works in Illinois, please read: Dividing Assets in Divorce in Illinois.

Mediate Your Illinois Divorce!

Illinois Divorce Mediation Best Way to Divorce.jpgWhether you work inside the home or outside of it, have minor children, grown children or are child-free, have been married a short time or have been together for many years, mediation is the smartest way to divorce in Illinois.

Why mediate your NJ divorce with Equitable Mediation?

To get started, take the next step and book an initial meeting for you and your spouse.

book a mediation appointment

book a mediation appointment