Mediation is appropriate for clients who believe that they can sit together and address the difficult choices that have to be made in a divorce (or post-divorce). That said, clients must feel that they are able to sit with their counterpart parent and hash through the parenting and financial decisions that they must address to finalize a divorce. Parents can elect to use a mediator for developing a parenting agreement and marital financial settlement, or simply to develop a parenting plan. They may also seek mediation to resolve post-decree issues that develop or become unresolved as new situations develop in the lives of the family members.
Mediation is path that involves both clients meeting with one (or more) trained professional who will guide them through the necessary elements to complete a divorce. The clients will resolve parenting time and decision-making issues, as well as having financial discussions with the assistance of a neutral third party who acts to facilitate the resolution of the process. That mediator whether from a mental health background or legal, or financial one, cannot represent the clients' interests in any legal proceeding. We recommend that both parties employ independent legal counsel to review the agreements and draft the legal marital settlement and parenting documents to assure that their agreements are consistent with Illinois family law guidelines and that the agreement will not be found unconscionable by a presiding judge.
Mediation may also be utilized to resolve other conflicts such as unresolved business conflicts, estate planning, and other major life decisions where conflict can arise. Consider employing a mediator when the conversation breaks down and resolution seems unattainable.
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In our practice, because the financial decisions being made will have a long-standing impact on all the parties, we will expect parties to utilize a neutral financial expert to help assess the weight of the decisions being addressed. An open referral mechanism is utilized to help parties access a professional that they feel they can both rely on to help with this process.
Mediators pair with financial neutrals (CDFA's-certified divorce financial analysts) who have expertise in assessing financial information specifically with a perspective on how divorce affects the family economy. They have the expertise to review the marital assets -real property, investments, retirement plans, determine values of pension plans, and help the clients identify the best family-friendly tax saving strategies to maximize savings to the family as a whole. Rather than assessing information from the perspective of a single client's vantage point, they assess things from a whole family perspective, which allows for more robust discussion about needs, goals and interests; this facilitates a comprehensive mutual outcome. Financial neutrals can help clients develop scenarios that model potential outcomes which help clients predict potential future consequences of their modeled options and ultimate choices. Though it seems costlier to have two mediators, the streamlining of the process makes for a more expedient and less costly process over all. In our experience, it is most advantageous to have a financial neutral involved in the mediation process because of the scale of the decision-making involved.