Frank Sinatra once famously sang, “My kind of town, Chicago is” and we couldn’t agree more. I guess that’s why we decided to expand our practice to Illinois in 2011.
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 dispute resolution process is Illinois divorce mediation.
In Illinois, we meet with couples in the following locations:
If mediating your no-fault divorce face-to-face is challenging due to personal or professional demands, one of the parties lives out of state, or you’re simply not located near one of our local locations, you and your spouse can still mediate your uncontested divorce with us using our innovative online divorce mediation process.
If both spouses have agreed to divorce and you both want to mediate, book an initial meeting for the two of you.
In Illinois, divorce mediation may be conducted privately or publicly, depending on whether the parties (you and your spouse) choose to mediate first or hire attorneys first.
If 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 guide you through our comprehensive mediation process where we'd identify, discuss, negotiate and resolve all of the issues surrounding your divorce privately, confidentially and without the use of family law 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 divorce attorney route first, you'd likely be sent to a court-ordered mediation process.
Yes, you read that correctly – many counties in Illinois, including the largest of them all - Cook county, now have court-ordered mediation whereby you’ll be required to engage in custody and parenting time mediation and economic issue mediation sessions which are now offered through the family 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:
For couples with no children or grown children, there are two main issues that the parties (spouses) need to resolve in an Illinois divorce. For couples with minor children, there are four:
In Illinois, issues of the allocation of parental responsibilities and determination of timesharing must be agreed upon by the parties 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, professional and neutral third party divorce 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.
How 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 for spouses 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.
In 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 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 marital property division. 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: Equitable Distribution in Illinois.
Whether 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.
To get started, take the next step and book an initial meeting for you and your spouse.
Or, if you're early in the process, learn how you (and your family) benefit using mediation for divorce in Illinois.
What is an uncontested divorce?
In Illinois, an uncontested divorce, also commonly known as a no-fault divorce, is one in which the parties are able to resolve, and come to agreement on, all of their issues, without the need to hire an attorney / attorneys and have the matters resolved in court.
When parties work with a mediator, all divorces by definition are uncontested divorces. Because a highly skilled Illinois divorce mediator will be able to help a divorcing couple resolve, and come to agreement on, all issues within the mediation process. In turn, eliminating the need to hire an attorney and go to court to resolve them.
One thing that’s important to note, and admittedly it’s a bit of a technicality, is that an “uncontested divorce” isn’t really a” no-fault divorce.” Every divorce has a fault; it’s just that in the case of a divorce process that uses a mediator to come to agreement, the “fault’ is an uncontested divorce.
I know. A bit confusing…
Is a mediator a neutral third party? Or will they give me advice, or tell me what to do?
Unlike an attorney, mediators act as a neutral third party, and will not give you advice or tell you what to do. Parties who choose to work with a mediator wish to make their own decisions on issues such as custody or property division, instead of being told what to do by an attorney.
Think of mediators like conductors in an orchestra. Conductors lead the symphony, and mediators lead the mediation process. But conductors don’t make the music, just like mediators don’t make the decisions for the parties. Yet without a conductor, or a mediator, the proceeding would get off track, and the participants wouldn’t know what to do.
What’s the difference between a divorce and dissolution of marriage?
While most people think of divorce and dissolution of marriage as the same thing, in some states they are not. Some practitioners think of a divorce as being contested, and dissolution of marriage as being uncontested. That is, in a dissolution of marriage, the issues were all resolved using a divorce mediator, during the mediation process, and many of the steps in a traditional divorce process were skipped (such as hiring an attorney or going to court).
In Illinois, it is common for people to use the terms divorce and dissolution of marriage interchangeably, but as non-attorney mediators, we can’t fully comment on the accuracy of this statement, nor its legal impact on a case.
What’s the difference between mediation and alternative dispute resolution?
The term “alternative dispute resolution” or ADR for short, refers to any dispute resolution process that eliminates the parties need to resolve their issues and matters in court. Mediation is simply one type of alternative dispute resolution services. Other common types may include, but are not limited to, collaborative divorce, arbitration, peace circles, and restorative justice.
The idea behind ADR is to keep the parties out of expensive and damaging litigation, and instead, with the help of a neutral third party such as a mediator, reach agreement without having to go to court.
Is “divorce mediation” the same as “divorce and family mediation?”
Divorce mediation is a subset of divorce and family mediation, focused on helping married couples peacefully and cost-effectively end their marriage.
Whereas divorce and family mediation is broader in scope, with mediators helping parties resolve matters related to family, but not directly related to divorce. For example, creating a visitation / custody arrangement for a child of an unmarried couple, or assisting with the property division of a family-owned business.