What is Mediation?

Costs and Fees , Divorce , Mediation


Most family law cases in in one of two ways: an agreement or the judge will make a final decision. Leaving everything up to the judge can be very scary so it is wise to do everything possible to reach an agreement. Mediation can often save people significant time and money when done correctly. In discussing the benefits of mediation, many attorneys and practitioners refer to the “three Cs.”


Everyone going through a court process wants to know how long the process is going to take and how much it is going to cost. A family law case, especially divorce, is such a fact-specific matter that determining an “average” financial cost is almost impossible.  Assuming some minor conflicts, an average contested divorce costs about $15,000, and the majority of that expense is legal fees. An uncontested divorce, which is a divorce that the parties agree on everything, should cost between $2,000-$4,000 depending on the specific issues.

Successful mediation will save you a significant amount of money and time. Instead of preparing for a full trial, your attorney can focus on the specific issues of contention and help you to understand your options. As well, you and your lawyer must thoroughly go over your goals for Parental Responsibility Allocation, child support, property division, and other areas.

Early mediation, which is an employment law concept, is gaining some traction in the family law arena. The idea is that if the case is mediated shortly after the petition is filed and some cursory discovery is done, the cost savings will be more significant; the obvious downside is that, in early mediation, a party will not be as familiar with all the economic and emotional ramifications of a divorce case. Most counties in Illinois require mediation if the parties are unable to agree on Allocation of Parental Responsibilities and Parenting Time within 120 days of the case starting.


There is no court reporter at mediation. You can and should speak freely and be open to different ideas. Nothing you say in mediation can be raised in Court. In other words, your ex cannot say “you offered ABC in mediation and now you are trying to offer XYZ.”


Some research indicates that mediated settlements have a much higher compliance rate than orders dictated by a judge, because the parties feel more invested in the process. So, mediation can serve as a more effective platform to encourage future co-parenting. This consideration is especially important if one or both parties have problems accepting authority, as is very often the case. You have the opportunity to control the outcome by reaching a compromise.

The Process

Most divorce mediations are conducted by divorce attorneys who have had substantial mediation training and experience. So, they are quite familiar with the issues and emotions involved in these matters.

Mediation sessions can last as little as one hour to a full day or more. Prior to the meeting, the mediator reviews the court pleadings and perhaps a few other relevant documents. Typically, the parties divide the mediation cost equally.

These meetings may take place at the mediator’s office, but sometimes they can be done via videoconference when the parties are unable to be physically present. After a brief joint session, during which the mediator may make informal opening statements, the parties retire to different rooms. The mediator then basically conducts shuttle diplomacy by conveying settlement offers and counteroffers between the parties. Each mediator is different, so the exact process may vary.

If the parties reach a resolution with the mediator’s help, they will memorialize the agreement and then have an opportunity to review the agreement with their attorney. If the parties still agree after meeting with their attorney, the agreement is presented to the Judge for approval, and then it becomes binding upon the parties.

If there is no resolution, the case continues on towards trial and the items discussed in mediation remain privileged so they cannot be used against you in trial.

As mentioned earlier, many judges automatically refer contested cases to mediation. Otherwise, mediation is appropriate in almost all cases; the primary exception being situations where there are verified abuse allegations.

Mediation is not always successful, but it is nearly always worth a try. For a free phone call with an experienced family law attorney, contact attorney Reidy Law Office LLC.