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FAQ: Mediation vs. Uncontested Divorce

As an uncontested divorce lawyer offering fast and affordable uncontested divorce, I normally get calls from people who have agreed to divorce and want to get things done quickly. But sometimes I get calls for divorce mediation. I’d say that whether people call me for an uncontested divorce or mediation, they’re on the right track – they want to agree. When it come to getting divorce in Illinois, agreement is the way to go – if you can.

But still, many people are confused about the differences between divorce mediation and uncontested divorce in Illinois. So I wrote this FAQ on Mediation vs. Uncontested divorce.

Who gets represented?

A lawyer represents one of the parties in a divorce.

A mediation doesn’t represent either party.

That’s the essence of the difference between a lawyer and a mediator. When a person hires a lawyer, the lawyer will represent and advice the person, looking out for the client’s best interest. Lawyers give client’s advice that is kept confidential from the other party.

In contrast, a mediator is a neutral – that means a mediator does not represent either party. Mediators do not give advice – they help people reach agreement.

Long story short, if you need legal advice, you cannot get it from a mediator. Mediators do not represent anyone.

Mediators work with both parties. Can a lawyer?

I have had a several people call me up and tell me that they have mediated their divorce already, and they just need me to look over some paperwork. But upon further questioning, I learn that in fact what happened is the person who called me actually met with his or her spouse, and the spouse’s lawyer. Sometime, unscrupulous lawyers will meet with both parties in a divorce in an attempt to trick one of the parties into thinking they have representation (when really the lawyer only represents one party in a divorce).

Lawyers should only represent one party in a divorce because they are giving legal advice. Sometimes people who are divorcing amicably think they can both you the same lawyer. But they should not, and any lawyer that takes such a job is a fool, and unethical. Sometimes people who get along at one point will disagree later. In such a case, a lawyer representing both side of a divorce would be in a very bad position – and so would both parties.

Mediators don’t represent anyone, but they work as a neutral with both parties helping them reach an agreement. Lawyers only represent one party in a case.

Is a mediator or lawyer a faster path to divorce?

Sometimes people call me and say they need mediation, and after talking to them, I realize the are pretty much in agreement already. In those case, I can represent that person as a lawyer in an uncontested divorce in Illinois.

If people are in a agreement but just need to work on very small details, using a lawyer for a fast and affordable uncontested divorce can be faster than using mediation to work out extremely simply details.

Many uncontested divorces in Cook County and DuPage County take little more than one month from start to finish. Sometimes divorce takes a bit longer in Lake, Kane, Kendall, McHenry and Will counties.

Mediation generally takes about one month. So you can add a one-month mediation period to the time it would normally take for an uncontested divorce, and you can see that it seems to double the time it takes to get a divorce.

On the other hand, mediation can actually speed up a divorce. If people start an uncontested divorce but aren’t in agreement on key issues, the whole process can stall and seem to take forever. Rather than that type of situation, mediation can help people come to agreement so they can move on.

Are mediators lawyers?

Illinois has a law regulating mediation. Do you know how they define “mediator”? According to the law, a mediator is anyone who mediates. As amazingly lame as that definition is, that tells you that mediators don’t have to be lawyers in Illinois.

That’s disturbing. I’ll tell you way. Mediators who are not lawyers are often incompetent to mediate an entire divorce. I’ll give you an example. One of the most well-known mediators in the area drafted a divorce agreement that purported to bind a third party (someone other than the two spouses in the divorce). Guess what? That’s impossible.

Many non-attorney mediators are just questionably qualified people trying to make money off divorce – and they know amazingly little about the law and what actually happens in divorce.

In my opinion, no one should hire a divorce mediator who is not a lawyer. You might want to check out this article about mediators and their qualifications.