What is Mediation (and Why do I have to Go?)

February 21, 2023

Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process in which a neutral third party (the mediator) assists two (or more) parties to reach a mutually-acceptable agreement without going to trial. The mediator does not make any decisions on behalf of the parties; instead, they help guide the parties in finding a solution that works best for everyone involved. A mediator helps facilitate communication between the two parties so that they can come up with their own solution. In other words, it’s all about finding common ground so that both parties can move on with their lives in a respectful way. Mediators are typically lawyers or other professionals who have experience with divorce proceedings. Specifically, in divorce and parenting proceedings (custody cases), the mediator will help the parents resolve their issues around parenting time (custody and visitation) and decision making, such as where a child will go to school.


The goal of mediation is to help the parties come to an agreement outside of court so that they can avoid expensive and time consuming litigation. During a mediation session, the mediator facilitates discussion between both sides in order to identify points of agreement and disagreement. The mediator may also suggest possible solutions for resolving disagreements if necessary. Mediation mostly occurs with the three people in the same room or Zoom call. In Illinois, the matter either has to settle or you have to attempt four hours of mediation.

What is Mediation?

Think of mediation like having a referee help you and your ex-spouse reach a fair agreement. Here’s how it works:

  • The Mediator: A neutral person (often a lawyer with family law experience) guides the discussion and helps you communicate constructively. They don’t make decisions for you.
  • The Goal: Reach an agreement on issues like parenting schedules (what used to be called custody), child support, and how to divide property. A mediator can help you explore solutions that work for everyone.
  • Illinois Rules: Most divorcing couples in Illinois must attempt mediation before going to court. This is often a faster and more affordable way to resolve disagreements.

Why choose mediation?

  • Control: You and your ex-spouse design your own solutions, rather than a judge making decisions for you.
  • Cost-effective: It can often be cheaper than a long court battle. Most attorneys in Belleville and Edwardsville charge $1,000-1,500 for four hours.
  • Focus on the future: A mediator help you and your ex-spouse start communicating better, especially if you have children together.

Why Do I Have To Go?


Divorce is complicated. If you’re facing disagreements about children or other issues, mediation can be a smart way to find common ground and avoid a lengthy court battle. Other times, the Court can order you to go. Illinois Supreme Court Rule 905 requires couples getting divorced who have not reached an agreement on parenting time (custody & visitation) to attend mediation before they can move forward with their case in court.

Quick FAQs

  • Cost: Mediators often charge an hourly rate for the four hours of required mediation.
  • Can my lawyer/parent/friend be there? Usually, it’s just you, your ex-spouse, and the mediator. This helps those that will live with the decisions make the decisions.
  • Does mediation always work? Not always. But if you’re both willing to find a compromise, it’s often worth a try!
  • Does anyone settle some issues but not all of them? Yes. Some parties are able to settle issues like holidays and summer parenting, but need the Court to determine where the children spend time other than those days.
  • Does mediation result in a Court Order we can follow? No, mediation results in an agreement only.
  • Can the mediator also draw up our divorce paperwork? No. An attorney cannot do both. Illinois Ethics rules say that an attorney can be an attorney or a mediator, not both.
  • Can the mediator give legal advice? No. Advice can only be given to clients, and the mediator is not an attorney for either person and neither participant can use the mediator as an attorney. They can certainly give information about the law, but not advise the mediation participants.


I do offer mediation both as an assigned mediator and as a self-chosen one. I mediate on a flat fee basis. If you think that you need help to discuss your parenting in a neutral environment, please reach out. If I mediate for a family, I am automatically not allowed to be the attorney who handles the divorce.