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Divorce mediation: voluntary or mandatory process in Illinois?

As is true with so many things in law, an answer to the above-posed headline query in today's blog post must be qualified.

To wit: It depends.

We'll preface a response by confirming the notion that mediation is generally a volitional exercise for divorcing parties who seek to engage in the process. A mediated divorce negotiation and outcome customarily proceeds in lieu of formal adversarialism played out in a court under the watchful eyes of an Illinois family law judge.

That is not always the case, though. Some soon-to-be Illinois exes find themselves mediating divorce issues regardless of their personal views on how they want to proceed with the dissolution process. We note on a website page addressing mediation at The Law Office of Jamie Mitchell, LLC (with locations in Maryville and Edwardsville, respectively) that divorce-linked mediation "can be a requirement or an opportunity."

To be specific, mediation is legally imposed by the Illinois Supreme Court when mutual agreement cannot be reached between divorcing parties in select matters concerning children. For instance, the process must be followed in disputes regarding custody and parenting plans.

More broadly speaking, though, mediation is generally an opted-for dispute-resolution vehicle that proceeds absent any court order. And it can be directed at virtually any subject matter.

Indeed, that is one of its strong points, coupled with procedural strengths related to time and cost savings, a comparatively less-pressured atmosphere and greater autonomy exercised by the participants. We underscore on our website that "any issue can potentially be mediated," ranging from asset division to spousal maintenance and more.

A recent Harvard-linked publication stresses that mediation is optimally flexible, with different types of processes often being available to serve as court-based alternatives. Further information can be supplied by a proven family law attorney who commands on-point experience as a mediator.

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