By Natalie Bower
Attorney, Cordell & Cordell
Mediation in divorce cases is generally used to address custody and visitation issues and provides a neutral forum away from the courtroom to discuss the most important, and most personal, aspect of ending a marriage – the children.
Custody mediation is generally more about personal parenting goals than the legal status, such that custody issues can often be resolved, or at least narrowed, through the mediation process.
Family court judges encourage parties to attempt to work through children-related issues in their case so that the parties are involved in negotiating and shaping the final judgment.
In some states, including Illinois where I practice, custody mediation is mandatory. Often, one party has made several efforts to speak with his spouse about custody and visitation, but his spouse refuses to discuss these issues. A mandatory custody mediation provides that party with the opportunity to engage his spouse in an environment that encourages both parties to discuss their contested issues and attempt to reach an agreement.
Usually parties are required to attend custody mediation if they are unable to reach a prompt resolution to the custody and visitation issues at the beginning of their case.
Custody mediation involves both parties meeting with an attorney or other professional who is trained and appointed by the court to serve as a neutral mediator. The parties’ attorneys do not attend custody mediation in Illinois.
The mediator does not represent either party or their interests but facilitates the parties’ discussions of the disputed custody issues and aids them in formulating provisions for an agreement.
The parties are generally required to attend several hours of custody mediation (usually in separate sessions) after which the mediator files a brief report with the court advising as to whether an agreement has been reached on some or all of the issues.
Agreements reached in mediation are generally not binding or enforceable until reduced to a written order and entered by the court.
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Natalie Hinton is a Associate Attorney for the Edwardsville, Illinois office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. She is licensed to practice in the state of Illinois. Ms. Hinton graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with dual degrees, a B.A. in Psychology and a B.A. in French. She received her Juris Doctor from The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.
Prior to pursuing her law degree Ms. Hinton worked as a Legal Assistant with Cordell & Cordell, P.C. in St. Louis, Missouri. It was during this time that she was inspired to attend law school.