Your divorce attorney is an important part of the divorce mediation team. Properly trained mediators will insist that you and your spouse each have a divorce attorney available between sessions for purposes of consultation. Your divorce attorney thus serves as a resource — someone to turn to for information about Illinois divorce law. Divorce mediation depends on the participants making informed decisions, and your divorce attorney can assist you to become an informed party in the mediation. The mediator relies on the divorce lawyer to give clients realistic assessments and feedback.
Early in the divorce mediation process — perhaps even before it starts — ask your divorce attorney about the likely range of outcomes he or she would anticipate if the case were to proceed through the court system. This gives you a context in which to evaluate proposals being discussed in the divorce mediation. You should also ask your divorce attorney to help you identify issues of importance from a legal point of view. Divorce attorneys are good problem solvers: your family law attorney can help you identify and prioritize some of the options available to you.
As the divorce mediation progresses, remain in frequent contact with your divorce attorney. Call the family lawyer between sessions and update him or her on the status of the divorce mediation. Discuss any areas of concern and the agenda for the next session. If you’re having a problem, ask your divorce lawyer to call the mediator.
When you approach the negotiating phase of the mediation, ask your family law attorney to coach you before the session. If you’re like most people, you do little formal negotiating in your day-to-day life, so ask your divorce attorney to provide tips and techniques that could help create a positive outcome. If you still feel uneasy, consider asking the mediator to permit the divorce lawyers to sit in on the mediation itself.
Finally, listen to the points and concerns your divorce attorney has to offer. Although you’re the one who’s ultimately responsible for making decisions in your divorce — and will have to live with the outcome — your family law attorney has a wealth of experience upon which to draw. Consider what he or she has to say before making your decisions.
Jerald A. Kessler is a family law attorney with a full-time divorce-mediation practice in Highland Park, Evanston, and Libertyville, IL. He is a past-president of the Mediation Council of Illinois and an Advanced Practitioner Member of the Association for Conflict Resolution.