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 trust and 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-divorce (post-decree) issues that develop or become difficult to resolve.
Mediation is path that involves both clients meeting with one (or more) trained professional who will guide them through the necessary elements to complete their divorce. The clients will resolve child related parenting time and decision-making issues, and their financial estate issues with a neutral third party who acts to facilitate the resolution of the process. That mediator whether from a mental health background or legal one, or financial one, cannot represent the clients' individual 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 statutes and that the agreement will not be found unconscionable by a presiding judge.
Mediation may also be utilized to resolve other conflicts such as family conflicts, unresolved family business conflicts, estate planning issues, and other major life, health, and death decisions where conflict and strong emotional experiences can arise. Consider employing a mediator when the conversation breaks down and argument outweighs discussion, and resolution seems unattainable.
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In our practice, when the financial holdings of the family are complex, we will expect parties to utilize a neutral financial expert (usually a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, CDFA) to co-facilitate the negotiations about the marital estate. An open referral mechanism is utilized to help parties access an expert professional that both parties will rely on to navigate the finances.
Mediators pair with financial neutral CDFA's because of their expertise in assessing financial information specifically with a perspective on how the law and 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 impact 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. 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. Feel free to ask how this differs from using your own respective accountant, and the important distinction that adds value to your process and saves you time and money.