How Long Does the Divorce Process Take?

How Long Does the Divorce Process Take?How long the does the divorce process take? That depends on a lot of factors, including how complicated the division of assets is (how many assets, children, pets, etc.) and how well you two cooperate in the divorce process. If one spouse decides they want to drag it out, they can make it last years.

The Requirements

First, there are some requirements you need to meet before you can even file for divorce. These include the fact that, under Illinois law, you or your spouse need to have lived in Illinois for at least 90 days before you can file for divorce in Illinois. If children are involved, that limit goes up to 180 days. If for some reason you don’t meet the time limit and you can’t wait, you’ll have to file in another state.

In Illinois, the only remaining grounds for divorce is irreconcilable differences.  Under Illinois law, if you and your spouse have been living separate and apart for 6 months, irreconcilable differences are presumed. If you have not been living separate and apart for 6 months, you can still file for divorce, but you must allege that irreconcilable differences have arisen and prove same.

Uncontested Divorce

The best-case scenario is when you and your spouse can both agree that divorce is in everyone’s best interests, and you can agree on things like the division of assets, spousal support, and parenting time. These divorces can be completed in as little as two weeks, but more commonly take a month or two.  If there are children involved, both parties must complete a parenting class prior to the entry of the final judgment.

Contested Divorce

When you and your spouse can’t agree on one or more of the important factors in the divorce, that’s known as a contested divorce and it can take much longer – anywhere from 18 to 30 months and on. Each issue that you and your spouse can’t agree on needs to be determined by a judge, and each time you need to go before a judge to argue your case extends the time it will take before the divorce can be finalized.

Divorce by Publication (Default)

Maybe things have deteriorated in your marriage to the point where you don’t even know where your spouse is currently living. If this is the case and you want to seek a divorce from this person, you’ll need a divorce by publication, which requires a few steps.

First you need to attempt to notify the spouse of your intention to divorce them. If you don’t know where they are, you can publish a notice of your intention in local newspapers in the area where they were last known to reside.

You also need to do everything you can to try to locate your spouse. This might include things like calling their friends and family, their last known residence/landlord, employer, etc. There’s no definition for the things you need to do in order to prove you made an effort to reach your spouse, but you do need to provide sufficient evidence that you did everything in your power to reach them. This process could take months.

The missing spouse needs to be given a reasonable amount of time to respond to the notice of your intention to divorce them, but if they fail to respond, then the court will grant your divorce. At that point, you will need to publish notice of the divorce in all the local papers in the area where your spouse was last known to reside.  After publishing the notice once a week for three weeks without a response, the court will deem the divorce to have been finalized.

The Attorneys

Unfortunately, some attorneys will take advantage of the friction in divorces and drag out the process, so they can bill more hours on the case. We never do this. Our job is to serve you and make the process as easy and painless as possible. If you’re considering getting divorced and you need a family law firm you can trust, reach out to us today to schedule a consultation.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

How Are the “Best Interests of the Children” Determined?

Best Interests of the ChildrenWhen a couple with children decides to get divorced, the first question is usually: how will it affect the children? In most cases, everyone wants what’s best for the children, including the court, but what, exactly, does that mean? And how does a court determine what’s in the best interests of the children?

Ideally, the couple can agree on what’s best for their children and work together to come up with a Parenting Plan that decides how much parenting time each parent gets, where the children will live, who pays child support and how much, etc. The Parenting Plan needs to be approved by a judge, but judges do often assume the parents know what’s best for their children. So long as the Parenting Plan does not run afoul of the law, go against public policy interests, and/or seem unconscionable (meaning no reasonable person would agree to it), the Parenting Plan will be approved by the Court.

Most couples can agree on how to raise the children after the divorce, but sometimes a divorce happens in which the couples can’t agree, and no amount of mediation can help them reach common ground. In that case, the court will have to step in and make up its own mind as to what’s best for the children of the divorcing couple.

In addition to determining how to split parenting time, most judges will also decide which parent gets to make the major parenting decisions (where the children will go to school, who their doctor will be, when they can get their driver’s license, etc.) In Illinois, the law requires that the Court allocate decision-making responsibilities to the parents, either by having them jointly decide one category or by having one parent be solely responsible.  With the 2016 amendments to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, the Court now specifically has to award decision-making responsibility for the 4 following categories:  Health/Medical, Education, Religion, and Extracurricular Activities.  For each category, the Court must indicate whether both or one parent can decide that issue, so it is possible for one parent to have sole decision making on something like medical decisions, but the other parent to be solely responsible for educational decisions.

When allocation of decision-making is contested, Judges must look at 15 factors and weigh them against the existing facts of that case. Those 15 factors are:

  • The children’s wishes;
  • How well the children have adjusted to their current home, school, and community in general;
  • The mental and physical health of everyone involved in the divorce;
  • The level of conflict between the parents and their ability to work together to make decisions;
  • The level of each parent’s past participation in making significant parenting decisions;
  • Any prior agreement or course of conduct between the parents regarding the making of parenting decisions;
  • The wishes of the parents;
  • The children’s needs;
  • The distance between the parents’ residences, the cost and difficulty of transporting the children, each parent’s daily schedules, that of the children, and the likelihood the parents will be able to cooperate in an arrangement;
  • Whether a restriction on decision-making is appropriate;
  • The willingness and ability of each parent to foster a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the children;
  • Any history of physical violence or threatened physical violence directed at the children by either parent;
  • Any history of abuse against the children or any member of the child(ren’s) household;
  • Whether one of the parents is a sex offender, the nature of their offense, whether they’ve sought treatment, and the nature of that treatment;
  • Any other factor the court might find relevant.

It should be noted that this is not a tally in which parents should aim to win the most points. Each judge will give more weight to some factors than others and it all depends on the situation. If you have any questions about what this might mean for your case, contact us today.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

What Does Child Support Cover?

child supportIf you’re getting divorced (or thinking about getting divorced) you may be wondering how much you can expect to pay (or receive) in child support payments. Unlike alimony, which is based on a percentage of each spouse’s income, child support is calculated based on the estimated costs of caring for and raising a child.

While the amount of child support an ex-spouse is made to pay will vary depending on the divorce agreement, in most cases, child support payments are just meant to cover the basics: food, clothing, housing, and the essential needs of the children. Things like toys, school books, sports, and school supplies are not normally “covered” by child support payments, so the parent with the most parenting time needs to keep that in mind when budgeting their income (including child support) against their expenses.  The Court can, however, enter orders for child support that address these costs outside of the “basic child support obligation” that is calculated per the statute. See below.

Health Insurance

The parent paying for support may also be required to get health insurance for the child through their employer, if their employer offers it, regardless of whether they’re buying health insurance for themselves through their employer. If their employer does not offer it, the parent with the most parenting time may enroll the child in their employer’s healthcare program.  Once the cost of insurance is determined, the new child support guidelines will normally divide this cost of the child’s premium between the parents.

Orders for Supplemental Support

Depending on your unique situation, the court may order the parent who is paying child support to pay for additional expenses, including those related to education for the child, childcare, or any medical or dental costs that are not covered by insurance. It can also include expenses related to extracurricular activities, such as music lessons and sports, as long as those expenses are deemed reasonable and are intended for the wellbeing of the child, their education, and/or their social, cultural, or athletic development.

This is important to remember, especially if your children are in private school and/or are planning on attending college. The price for higher education continues to climb, so it’s common for both parents to chip in to pay those bills. The court may or may not include a supplemental order for the parent with minority parenting time to cover those costs, but either way it’s a good idea for the parents to work out between themselves who will cover how much of those costs. Not only does it make things easier on their post-marriage relationship, but it also makes things easier on the child by ensuring they can focus on what’s really important: getting a good education.

There are many factors included in divorce, especially when children are involved. Ideally, you and your ex can work together to come up with an agreement, but if that’s not possible, at least know your rights so you have some idea of what to expect.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

You’re Getting Married and Your Future Spouse Has an Adopted Child, What Does This Mean for You?

future spouse has an adopted childWhile getting married and having kids is great, and relatively straightforward from a legal perspective, life doesn’t always go that smoothly. Sometimes the kids come before marriage, whether from a prior relationship or through adoption. So what does that mean for you if you’re about to become the newest addition to an existing family?

Marrying someone who has already adopted a child can be especially tricky. How tricky depends on a variety of factors:

  • The child’s age now
  • The child’s age when they were adopted
  • Their history before they were adopted
  • Whether they had a closed adoption

The Child’s Age Now

As with any other adoption, if the child is of a certain age, they have a say in whether they want to be adopted by their new step-parent. If the child does not want to be adopted by you, for any reason, then the adoption can’t move forward. That can be painful, but it’s important to respect their wishes and try to work through any existing issues that may have contributed to that decision.

The Child’s History

The child’s age and their history at the time they were adopted can also be important factors in whether they want to add a legal parent. While some children are adopted very young, and thus have never known any other family, others have lost their biological parents and/or been through the foster system. That can make it hard for the child to learn to put down roots and to trust that people are going to stick around for the long haul. For that reason, offering to adopt them can be a beautiful way to show your commitment, not just to your future spouse, but to their children. At the same time, it could also mean the child is not comfortable being adopted by anyone else, in which case it’s important not to force anything on them, even if they’re not yet of age to have a say.

Whether They Had a Closed Adoption

A closed adoption is when the identities of the birth parents and the adopted parents are not known to each other, in which case adopting your step-child could be fairly straightforward, assuming all parties are on board with the idea. But when the birth parents are still in the picture, it can make things tricky.

There are a variety of reasons this might happen. Your future spouse may personally know and/or be related to their child’s birth parents, but decided to adopt for the good of the child. It could be the biological parents were not ready to have a child and your future spouse was; or the biological parents may have been neglectful or even abusive, and your future spouse stepped up by adopting the child for his or her own good.

In any case, although they do not have legal rights to the child, if the biological parents are still in the picture, they may place some emotional pressure on the situation by expressing their disapproval. They won’t have the ability to formally object in Court, since they are no longer their child’s legal parent, but you may want to take their opinion into consideration to help things go smoothly, especially if the child has any sort of relationship with their biological parents.

Your Future Spouse’s View

Ultimately, it is your future spouse has the final say in all this, and he/she may or may not want you to adopt their child. No matter how well things are going between you two, their first obligation is to look after the best interests of their child.  The tougher the child’s history, the more protective the adopted parent is likely to be of them. If your future spouse doesn’t want you to adopt, don’t take it personally. Just do your best to be an active member of the family, as a child can never have too much love.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

Defining Domestic Violence: Are You Living In An Abusive Home?

abusive homeThe idea that we may be living in an abusive home can be a tough reality to face. When we love the people who don’t treat us as well as they should, it can be easy to make excuses for them, or even blame ourselves for their behavior.

In fact, that’s one of the biggest red flags that you may be living in an abusive home – when your partner downplays the importance of the abuse, denies it, or blames you for it.

The problem is this: you are never responsible for someone else’s actions. Their choices are their own and no one else’s. No amount of willfulness or thoughtlessness on your part justifies anyone else hitting you, threatening you or your loved ones, or trying to control you.

If you’ve been thinking you might be living in an abusive home, here are some things to consider:

Physical Violence

Physical violence is probably the first thing that comes to mind for most of us when we think of domestic abuse. It can be anything from hitting you to attacking you with a weapon – and keep in mind that almost anything can be considered a weapon. Just because a hardcover book isn’t on a standard list of weapons doesn’t mean someone couldn’t do serious damage with one if they wanted to, which brings us to our next clue to look out for:

They Scare You

You should never be afraid of anyone you live with. If they look at you or behave in any way that scares you, don’t try to brush it off as paranoia. Trust your instincts and get out of there, if you can. If you can’t get out, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

They Threaten You and/or Your Loved Ones

Abusers don’t always have to physically hurt you or anyone else to be considered abusive. Threats can be just as powerful, if not more so, especially if they’re threatening your loved ones – and remember that’s not limited to humans. It can be just as terrifying to have someone threaten to hurt, or even kill, a beloved pet, and if that’s the case, you may be living in an abusive home.

They Control You

Again, abuse isn’t always physical. Oftentimes, it’s more about control than anything else. Sometimes they exercise that control with physical violence and/or threats, other times it’s by controlling the money for the house and/or controlling what you do, where you go, and whom you see.

Anyone who takes your money, makes you ask for money, and/or refuses to give you money for things you need while they’re going on spending sprees, is abusive. By the same token, cutting you off from friends and family is a classic abuse tactic. If they forbid you, or try to stop you, from seeing your friends and family members, they’re abusing you. They want you to be completely dependent on them for everything and that’s never a good situation for you to be in.

No matter your relation to your abuser, you have rights. If you think you may be living in an abusive home, contact a qualified family law attorney today to talk about your options.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

Can I Start Dating During a Divorce?

dating during a divorceEven though you and your spouse have decided to call it quits, dating during a divorce can be very tricky and should be approached with caution because it can come with serious legal consequences.

First of all, be especially careful if there are children involved in your divorce. Not only do you want to avoid causing them any more pain and confusion than they’re already feeling, but a vengeful spouse can use evidence of another relationship to show you’re not mindful of the children’s best interest. The last thing you want is your spouse using your new relationship (or relationships) as evidence that your home will not be a good environment for your children. This is especially true if you decide to rub their face in it. Don’t flaunt your relationship by making a big deal about it on social media or talking about it with a lot of people. Instead, you’re better off keeping the relationship quiet until the divorce has been finalized. You can still see your new flame, but keep it off social media and make sure only a few trusted friends and family members are aware of the new relationship. At the same time, however, your soon-to-be ex should be one of the people you do inform about the relationship, particularly if you have children.

Second, if you are planning to seek alimony in the divorce, engaging in a new relationship may have consequences on your arguments for seeking spousal support. Many litigants make the mistake of rushing into a new serious relationship and/or moving in with the new significant other, which can result in the Court determining that the spouse has a new source of financial support and no longer is reliant on his or her current wife/husband to make ends meets. While the factors for determining cohabitation are complex, and should be discussed with an attorney, it is usually best to avoid moving in with a significant other altogether.

Third, while you may want to go out on dates or take vacations with your new significant other, expenditures on such things may be considered by the Court to be “dissipation of assets.” What this means is that if you spend $5,000.00 on a trip to Hawaii with your new beau, your spouse could then be entitled to seek an award of $5,000.00 from your other assets to compensate him/her for money you spent on a “non-marital purpose.” Dissipation claims can be very expensive to litigate, so most attorneys will suggest that you only maintain the status quo during your divorce process when it comes to expenses.

Finally, be very careful to make sure you are spending only your own money on this new relationship. Never, ever spend marital funds or money from marital assets on another relationship because the court may require you to pay that money back to your spouse. In fact, you’re better off not spending much money at all on the new relationship. If it looks like you have money to burn, the court may either lower the amount of alimony you’re eligible to receive or increase the amount you’re required to pay, depending on your circumstances.

Of course, every marriage (and by extension, every divorce) is unique. You and your spouse may have agreed to see other people before the divorce is finalized. Your spouse might even be seeing someone. Know your spouse and know yourself in order to determine what would be the best course of action for your unique situation. In some cases, it might be putting off a new relationship until you’ve both finished signing the divorce papers.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 20 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

What’s the Difference Between Separation and Divorce?

Difference Between Separation and DivorceThe main difference between separation and divorce is that, when you’re separated, you are still legally married to your spouse. While separations often lead to divorce, divorce is not inevitable once a couple decides to separate. Some couples take some time off from each other to reassess the state of their marriage. Some people decide to take a new, more successful approach to their marriage after that, while others decide to make the separation permanent by filing for divorce.

First, there’s the distinction between a trial separation and a legal separation. A trial separation is when you and your spouse decide, on your own, to live apart for a time to take a break from your marriage. The separation can last as long as you want, since it has no official end date, and you and your spouse are free to divide up the bills and assets during the separation as you see fit. This works pretty well for most people, to the point where some states don’t even provide legal separation as an option.

Obtaining a legal separation requires a court order and often involves much of the same legal processes as a divorce.

Separation is a kind of middle ground between marriage and divorce. You and your spouse remain legally married and cannot remarry until you obtain a divorce. In a legal separation, the judge cannot divide marital property unless the parties agree to the division, but they can determine custody issues, child support, and alimony for the duration of the separation.

Like divorce, in order to obtain a legal separation, you have to file a petition for legal separation in the county in which you live, then serve your spouse with papers informing them of your intention to separate.

In Illinois, you are required to have lived in Illinois for at least 90 days before you can ask for a separation in Illinois. You can still request a legal separation in Illinois if your spouse lives in another state, as long as you have lived in Illinois for the minimum required time period.

If children are involved, then the children must have lived in Illinois for at least six months before an Illinois court can determine custody. If your children live with your spouse in another state, you will likely need to file for separation in the state in which they live. Be sure to look up that state’s requirements before you file or speak with a licensed attorney there.

Once you file for a legal separation, the court will begin the legal process, and that process will ultimately end with the Judge setting a hearing date, much like a divorce hearing. There you will have your opportunity to present your side of the case and the judge will make their decisions regarding custody (or parenting time, as it’s referred to in Illinois), child support, and alimony.

Don’t forget that mediation is always an option and can help the separation process. It can make the entire process go much more smoothly than if you and your spouse are forced to abide by terms laid out by a judge. Couples who mediate their separations and divorces are more likely to abide by the terms of the agreement and are less likely to end up back in court.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 20 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

What if Your Ex Refuses to Help Pay for College?

ex refuses to help pay for collegeIdeally, if your ex refuses to help pay for college you two can work out a solution without resorting to court. If that fails, here’s what you need to know about taking your ex to court if they insist on refusing to help:

Don’t Wait

Everything has a time limit, including demands that your ex-spouse pay their share of child support and/or college. If you wait too long to take your ex to court over failure to contribute to your children’s education, the court may interpret the time you waited as having waived your right to your ex’s financial contributions. If your ex has violated the divorce agreement in any way, it is imperative that you file a complaint against them immediately so you always have a paper trail to show the court.

Doing so also helps prevent your ex from claiming ignorance. Without having those complaints as evidence, your ex may be able to claim they didn’t know about the expenses. In some cases, they may even claim they had no knowledge of your child’s intention of going to college, where they were going, or what they were studying. Some people will then claim they were denied a say in their child’s future, and then you have another problem on your hands.

This is also why it’s important to maintain a record of all correspondence between your ex. Keep track of emails, letters, and statements between you and your spouse so you can prove you made them aware of the expenses and show the court your ex’s responses.

It’s also important not to wait to pursue an Order for college expenses once you know where your child wants to attend school. Many divorce judgments don’t address college because the children are too young at the time of divorce. So, we typically recommend you start the discussions about college with your ex when your high schooler starts visiting campuses. This way, if he or she indicates a refusal to help with tuition, you have time to consult with an attorney and get a motion on file with the Court.

Get an Attorney

If you can’t afford to hire an attorney to go to family court, you can take your spouse to court without an attorney – although we highly recommend you hire a competent legal professional to help represent your interests in court. If you make a mistake or forget to bring up an important point, it can be much more expensive to hire an attorney to try undo your mistake, if that’s even possible.

An attorney can also advise you on the how’s, what’s and when’s in filing for post-minor support, such as what is needed when filing, how to get information about the school’s cost, when the Court will deny a request for contribution to college, etc.

It Won’t Take as Long as You Think

If you’re afraid you don’t have time to take your ex to court and get them to pay up before the bills are due, you don’t have to worry. First of all, that’s why it’s so important for you to file a complaint against your ex as soon as possible – don’t wait until the bills are overdue, and certainly don’t wait until you’ve already paid them before filing, because a judge might perceive that to mean you’ve waived your right to your ex’s help in paying those bills. Also, many times the Court will back-date any Order for post-minor support to the date that you originally filed your motion.

Second, concluding a post-judgment motion (meaning a motion filed after the initial divorce judgment) does not have to take as long as the divorce itself. Unlike many court motions, which can often take months, if not years, to be decided, a post-judgment motion can usually be decided in much less time depending on the case. If it’s a simple matter of your spouse refusing to help pay your child’s education expenses, and you can prove they were made aware of the bills and have refused to contribute, it shouldn’t take a court long to decide the matter. If you don’t have an Order yet for contribution, the process is usually just a matter of exchanging the financial information about each parent’s income and the costs of the school so that the Court can decide whether it is appropriate to make the parents pay for college.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 20 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

What Not to Do on Social Media During Divorce

Social Media During DivorceMost family law attorneys recommend avoiding social media during divorce altogether because anything you say online can and will be used against you in divorce court – even if it seems harmless at the time you posted it.

That said, if you do decide against a social media hiatus until the divorce is over, here are some things you should absolutely avoid posting on social media:

Announcing Your Divorce

While changing your relationship status on social media is exciting when starting a new relationship, the opposite can just make the break up process worse. Talk to your spouse before announcing the change in your relationship status on social media because no one likes to be blindsided. You may, however, discuss potential ways to announce it together.

In fact, that’s a good rule of thumb to maintain for the entire divorce process. Don’t announce your decision to get divorced. Don’t announce when the divorce has been finalized. And don’t announce your hearing/court dates for your divorce. You may continue talking to and about your friends on social media while you’re getting divorced, but don’t talk about your spouse or your divorce. Which brings us to our next piece of advice:

Badmouthing Your Spouse

The divorce process can be frustrating, and for many of us, our first instinct is to get online to complain about things that annoy us – including our significant other, but that’s a really bad idea when you’re getting divorced.

First of all, no one wants to see that. Many of your friends are probably also friends of your spouse, and seeing you complain about their friend creates some very awkward situations. Keep everyone else out of your divorce by refraining from talking about it on social media.

Second of all, as stated above, anything you say online can and will be used against you in divorce court. Badmouthing the other party looks really bad and can influence the judge against you, not to mention aggravate your spouse and make it less likely they’ll cooperate with you in the divorce process.

Incriminating Yourself

If you’re using your joint bank account to go on a shopping spree, don’t post your haul on social media. Even if you don’t specify where the funds came from, any signs of excessive spending can affect the court’s decision when it comes to any alimony and/or child support to which you’re entitled. Division of marital property and financial assets can also be affected by anything you post online about significant purchases.

Not to mention that social media is often widely accessible, even if you use your privacy settings to prevent anyone other than friends and family from seeing your posts. There are ways a court, an attorney, or a prospective employer can access your social media profile. Any signs of irresponsible spending have the potential to affect, not just your current personal life, but any job prospects or potential romantic relationships you might have in the future.

Speaking of romantic relationships, if you’ve been having any extramarital affairs, don’t ever post anything about them on social media. Even if your spouse already knows about the relationship, posting about it on social media looks really bad in court and has the potential to influence the court against you, especially when it comes to things like alimony, child support, and custody.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 20 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

What is a Divorce Mediator?

divorce mediatorWhile we’ve all heard horror stories of couples fighting over every single little item in their house when going through a divorce, and while that does happen, it’s not always the case. Many couples mutually agree to end their marriage, in which case they’re both more likely to cooperate in the divorce process (dividing marital property, determining custody and parenting time, etc.) For couples with an amicable divorce who don’t want to pay the fees associated with going to divorce court, there is a more affordable option: divorce mediation.

A divorce mediator is a neutral third party who helps facilitate the divorce and create an agreement that is amenable to both parties. Both spouses meet with the divorce mediator to determine the terms of the divorce agreement and make sure everyone can abide by those terms.

Representation

You don’t need an attorney if you’re using a divorce mediator, but you might still want a qualified family law attorney to help represent your interests in the divorce process. In that case, your attorney would be able to prepare you ahead of time, before you go into your first session with the mediator. This preparation would include explaining the legality of what some or all of your options are, and what those implications would be, if you decided to agree upon that term in the mediation. This is important to be informed on your legal options before entering mediation, as a mediator cannot give you specific legal advice. Rather, the mediator, in addressing you and your spouse together, can only explain in general terms what the law provides.

A common misconception is that a divorce mediator is a judge. This is not the case, as unlike a judge, a divorce mediator won’t make decisions for you and your spouse about who gets what in the divorce. Nor will a mediator examine “evidence” for you and tell you or your spouse who is “right” under the law. Instead, they’ll act as a facilitator to help you both agree on the terms of the divorce. For example, if there’s a piece of marital property or financial asset that you and your spouse both want, a divorce mediator can point out the fact that there might be something else of a similar value that you both want and each partner can get one of those things. Compromise is the name of the game in divorce, as well as in marriage, and a neutral third party can be invaluable in helping both you and your spouse recognize where you can find the potential for compromise.

You Decide Together

Because you and your spouse work together with the mediator to reach a mutually agreeable solution to the dissolution of your marriage, you’re both more likely to abide by the terms of the divorce and avoid conflicts in the future. While going to divorce court might provide an option that settles the matter relatively quickly and efficiently, all decisions are ultimately made for you by the judge. You both have a chance to say your piece, but the final decision is up to the judge, which usually leaves both of you feeling unsatisfied with the result .When that happens, you’re both less likely to abide by the terms of the divorce settlement, and this could end both of you back in divorce court if one spouse sues the other for failing to comply with the terms of the agreement.

Privacy

The other bonus of mediation is that it is completely confidential. Anything that happens in court goes on the record, which is then made publicly available. That can lead to some awkward conversations if a future spouse or potential employer gets their hands on a record of you and your spouse sniping at each other in court. But what happens in mediation stays in mediation. You’re not prohibited from telling your attorney about what happens in mediation, but the attorneys cannot give the Judge any details about what was negotiated, agreed to, or not agreed to with the mediator. Further, the mediator cannot be called to testify in your case about what was discussed in mediation, so this helps to ensure that discussions in mediation are honest, forthright, and productive.

If you’re going through a divorce, and you have children, more likely than not, you will have to attend sessions with a mediator during the process if you and your spouse are not otherwise able to agreed to a Parenting Plan on your own. In Illinois, parents are required to attend mediation for up to four (4) hours in any divorce or contested litigation involving children.   If used properly, mediation can save the parties thousands of dollars in litigation fees, so it is a smart thing to discuss with your spouse if you know divorce is coming.

At Sherer Law Offices, all of our attorneys in the firm are certified mediators in Illinois. So, we have several options for qualified mediators if you’re looking to pursue a more amicable and cost-friendly way to resolve your divorce. Contact us today to set up a time to discuss it.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 20 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests.