Divorce rarely comes easily to spouses. Deciding to end an often years-long relationship that may involve children is challenging at best, and dangerous at worst. Despite their differences, many couples still draft divorce agreements that prioritize equitable distribution, communication and honesty. Many of these satisfactory agreements come from mediation.

Mediation is an alternative to traditional dispute litigation where two parties draft their divorce resolutions. The use of mediation has been trending upward for decades, likely because of its many benefits.

Extensive benefits of divorce mediation

When a spouse files for divorce, they may ask the judge to use mediation. Most of the time, judges will grant these requests, encouraged by the couples’ request. Sometimes, a judge may rule for mediation.

Couples who choose mediation can expect several benefits:

  • Choice of mediator: A mediator serves as a neutral party and guides the negotiations toward a mutually beneficial resolution. Mediators create space where spouses can express their concerns and desires. A mediator may teach communication tools or set listening rules that facilitate understanding and empathy, but never insists on decisions or casts judgment. Spouses choose their mediator together and will find greater success in selecting someone with a matching skillset.
  • At the couples’ convenience: Mediation does not have to occur in a courtroom or with court personnel, so couples save on court fees. Many attorneys charge reduced rates for mediation services, and some state or local courts even cover the cost of a mediator. A couple does not have to wait weeks or months for an opening in the court’s schedule either — they can schedule their mediation sessions at a convenient location and time that is best for them.
  • Confidential negotiations: Divorce is full of painful emotions that may manifest as hostile speech or insults. Should this happen in a courtroom, the stenographer records everything said into the public record. Future disputes can pull from these records as evidence, rehashing painful emotions sometimes years later. With mediation, only the agreement itself remains, even in future disputes.
  • Better results: Mediation also produces resolutions both parties uphold. Since the couple drafts these agreements together, they custom design their checks and balances. Compromises are easier to deal with when chosen, rather than handed down from a judge. Mediated agreements often include instructions on handling future disputes to help reassure the signing parties.

The first step is legal consultation

Spouses interested in using mediation for divorce can bring their questions to a local attorney familiar with Illinois divorce law. A lawyer can help people decide if mediation is right for them and how best to proceed.