Alternative Dispute Resolution

When filing for divorce, mediation and collaborative law may be effective alternatives to traditional litigation. While most cases do not require either, they may be very beneficial in certain circumstances.

Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process in which both parties work with a neutral, third party mediator to resolve issues surrounding their divorce. Mediation is a non-binding, confidential process, and the mediator helps facilitate an agreement related to issues such as child support, maintenance, property distribution, and allocation of parenting time and parental responsibilities. The mediator does not give legal advice, and therefore both parties' attorneys may accompany their clients in the mediation process. Instead, the mediator helps identify the issues, explore possible solutions, and draft an agreement that is in the parties own terms. When the parties reach a mutual agreement, the parties enter into and sign a written settlement agreement, and the court enters an order or judgment approving the agreement.

When effective, mediation may provide a quick, cost effective, and personalized alternative to traditional litigation. However, certain cases may not benefit from mediation and are better suited for traditional litigation and legal representation. For example, if the parties cannot agree, the mediation process can be just as timely, expensive, and challenging as the courtroom process. Moreover, mediators do not give legal advice, so it is often imperative to also hire an attorney. In cases where the parties are not fully aware of their assets, they need a lawyer to complete the discovery process to determine their marital and non-marital property.

Pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 905, mediation is required for parents with child related issues such as allocation of parental responsibilities, relocation, and other non-child support issues. In Cook County, the parents will be referred to Family Mediation Services for mediation if they cannot agree to a mediator.

Another alternative is the collaborative process, in which both parties hire a collaborative law attorney and agree to resolve the issues without litigation. The parties sign a legally binding Participation Agreement, in which they commit to resolving the dispute outside of the courtroom and according to collaborative law guidelines.

The parties and their collaborative law attorneys all meet together in a four way conference in order to work through the issues and reach a mutual agreement. They often consult child specialists, financial experts, divorce coaches, and mental health professionals throughout the process. When an agreement is reached, the attorneys draft an agreement and the court then enters an order or judgment finalizing the process. If an agreement cannot be reached, the parties may resort to litigation, but pursuant to the Participation Agreement, both attorneys must withdraw from the case.

Experienced Chicago Attorney Van A. Schwab offers years of experience in alternative dispute resolutions. He has successfully helped many individuals navigate through this process. His current mediation rate is $250 per hour.

Contact family law attorney Van A. Schwab through this website, or by calling 312-702-1745 (in Chicago) or 847-208-4569 (in Skokie, Deerfield or in Libertyville).