As a child of divorce, Founder and Divorce Mediator Joe Dillon witnessed first-hand the damage of attorney-driven litigation and set out to offer divorcing couples a more peaceful and dignified alternative.
In 2008, he combined his 20+ years of experience in finance with his wealth of mediation and negotiation skills and his personal experiences with divorce to open Equitable Mediation Services with his partner and wife, Cheryl.
Joe earned a Master’s degree in Finance and graduated first in his class. He completed formal training in negotiation and mediation at Harvard University, MIT, Northwestern University (Chicago, Illinois campus), the NJ Association of Professional Mediators, the Institute for Continuing Legal Education, the Academy of Professional Family Mediators and the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysis.
Joe remains active professionally as a member (and former board member) of the Chicago, Illinois chapter of the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR), a member of the Mediation Council of Illinois, the Pennsylvania Council of Mediators, the Southern California Mediation Association (SCMA), the Academy of Professional Family Mediators, the Washington Mediation Association, and the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts.
He also has served as an instructor training other divorce mediators for the New Jersey Association for Professional Mediators (NJAPM) 40-hour divorce mediation training course and for Northwestern University's 40-hour divorce mediation training course.
And as a judge for both the Loyola Law School Mediation Tournament as well as the InterNational Academy of Dispute Resolution (INADR) Law School Mediation Tournament.
I was a classic suburban kid growing up in NJ. My father was the primary breadwinner and my team’s baseball coach while my mother worked inside the home and was a Cub Scout Den Mother and active in the PTA.
Our family seemed perfect from the outside. I played piano, rode my bike everywhere and really enjoyed the first 10 years of my life. But then my parents starting arguing more and more and talking less and less. Until finally, their relationship completely unraveled and my father moved out.
I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on but my mother told me they were getting a divorce and just kept crying and apologizing.
I remember the countless letters from attorneys and courthouses and the trips to my mother’s lawyer's office.
I remember having to put on a suit, get a haircut (blasphemy for a teenage boy trying to start a rock band!) and go to court to listen to my parents argue about who would pay for my expenses. I should have been a carefree kid - playing sports, flirting with girls and hanging out with my friends. Instead, my high school years were spent in a state of suspended animation.
I lived with my mother and we stayed in the house. I never had any parenting time with my father. No overnights. No trips to a ballgame. No communication whatsoever. It was like I never existed. The only time I ever saw him was in court.
My parents had gone back to court to argue over who would pay for my college. It started out 50-50 (even though my father made 10x what my mother made) but didn’t stay that way for long.
As a condition of this 50-50 split, the judge required my father to provide me with an extra $50 per week in spending money.
My father was not pleased and he began to argue with the judge. It seems the judge was not amused by my father’s challenge to his authority so he changed the split to 60-40 with my father paying more. This made my father even angrier, and he continued his rant - this time while trying to approach the bench! The judge then made it 70-30 as he banged his gavel and my father lost it.
As my father’s lawyer finally restrained him and pulled him back down into his chair, the judge said, “Do you want to try for 80-20 sir?” That’s when my father finally settled down. And off to college I went.
This is the last memory I have of my father. It really sounds like a bad movie, doesn’t it?
It’s been more than 30 years since that day in court. I have no idea where he lives, what he’s doing or if he’s even still alive. He never attended my high school, college or graduate school graduations. Doesn’t know my wife and obviously missed my wedding.
Every major milestone that I achieved, he wasn’t there. All, in my opinion, because of a lawyer-driven litigated divorce.
Anyone who knows me will say I’m a peacemaker.
I’m always looking for the best outcome for everyone involved, the true win-win.
I think it came from watching my parents constantly arguing and neither of them being willing to compromise or budge. They would yell at each other for hours and then stop talking for weeks. Around and around they would go, never getting any closer to a resolution.
This behavior destroyed our family and it ruined them as people. It was a lose-lose.
I conduct every mediation session in an environment of mutual respect and dignity so that each spouse is heard and validated.
Since mediation is a forward looking process, I get couples to focus on solutions rather than trying to settle old scores. And I use a variety of mediation styles based on the unique interpersonal dynamic of the couple along with the information gathered in and outside of session.
I’ve found that this active approach best guides my clients to a mutually agreeable settlement in a timely and cost-effective manner and keeps them out of financially ruinous and emotionally devastating litigation.
Going through a divorce is one of the most emotionally stressful life events anyone can face. And if the divorce process itself is not handled properly, it can be long, drawn-out and devastating to everyone involved, including your children.
But when you choose to work with an experienced divorce mediator like me who can expertly guide you through the obstacle course of divorce, you’d be surprised at how smoothly the process can go.
So be smart. Recognize the time for fighting is over. And don’t hire attorneys and put your kids in the middle of an all-out war like my parents did.
Instead, let Cheryl and I help you peacefully end your marriage without involving lawyers.
And without sacrificing your dignity, emotional well-being or financial resources.