County Opts for Mediation in Divorce Cases
Gordon, Tony, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Tony Gordon Daily Herald Legal Affairs Writer
People tend to think the most of solutions to problems they come up with themselves.
With that in mind, Lake County court officials are formalizing a mediation process to handle some of the most hotly-contested divorce court disputes.
They said they hope to have it up and running by June 1.
The idea is to reduce the friction in custody and visitation issues - everything from who gets the children on what holidays to whose house they'll live in full time.
"If given the opportunity to sit down with a trained, neutral party, most people can come up with answers tailored to their individual needs," said Circuit Judge Jane Waller, presiding judge of the family law division.
"It will, in most cases, be a better decision than one made by a judge based on formal evidence presented in court," she said. "That is because a judge does not know the parents or the children and cannot have the insight into the personalities or needs involved."
Practiced informally for several years in Lake County family law cases, mediation seeks to improve communication between the two sides and negotiate solutions.
Waller said a formal process for mediation of all custody and visitation disputes has been under study for a year by a panel of local judges and lawyers. It has the backing of a recent state Supreme Court order encouraging the process.
Highland Park attorney Jerald Kessler, who has been involved in mediation of family law issues for 15 years, said he welcomes the establishment of a formal system.
"This process will make divorce a less stressful and hurtful experience for those going through it," he said.
The mediators, generally attorneys or mental health professionals, must attend a 40-hour training program and also have education in domestic violence, substance abuse and mental illness. …