Illinois: Mandatory Mediation for Custody and Visitation

March 20th, 2009 - Erin Johnston

Parenting Custody AgreementsIn Illinois, if you go to court over custody or visitation, you will probably be ordered to see a mediator as part of your legal journey.  Even if you have never been married, the Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that mediation is the best way to begin sharing the responsibility for a child.

You can read the actual court ruling for clarification, but the purpose is to address any and all areas of conflict in parenting through mediation – this includes custody of the children, visitation rights, or the residency of the children (moving them out of the state).  Mediation allows the parents to work out a plan that works best for them.  Parents in dispute can opt to have  private mediator, like CFR Mediation, or can choose to participate in a court-run mediation program.

Each judge will order mediation “unless the court finds that an impediment to mediation exists”.  What this means is that there are certain circumstances where mediation is not considered a good idea.  For instance, if issues like substance abuse, mental illness, child abuse, or domestic violence are a factor in your situation, the judge may not order you to participate in mediation.

It is important to remember that although mediation may be mandatory in most cases, resolving your differences in those sessions is not.  Agreements through family mediation are always voluntary, but is also the only way to ensure that you develop a plan that you and your child can live with.  As in all family matters, any agreement made in mediation is not actually binding until it is signed by the judge as a formal court order.

If you would like to talk to someone in Illinois about your options, contact us.  At CFR, we have several qualified mediators throughout Cook County and other areas of Illinois

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