Court Divides Divorce Mediation Process

Article excerpt

Byline: Bob McCoppin

Divorcing couples fighting over their children will go through what's meant to be a better mediation process in DuPage County courts.

Beginning March 1, couples will be required to attend a class within 60 days of filing for divorce. The class will look at how divorce affects children.

Currently, the class may be taken at the end of the divorce, which defeats the purpose of learning how to handle children during the process.

If the couples still dispute custody and visitation after the class, they will be required to meet with a trained mediator, who will help try to help them compromise.

If the mediator can't get them to agree, the couple will be referred to a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist for an evaluation. The evaluator will recommend a resolution to the judge handling the case.

Currently, a psychologist typically handles both the mediation and evaluation components of the process.

Some husbands and wives had complained that the psychologist learned marital secrets they revealed in mediation, then used the information against them in recommending who should get the children.

The new process is meant to split the two stages of mediation and recommendation, and keep the mediation confidential.

The changes were made in response to complaints about the process from some who had been through it.

A blue-ribbon commission chaired by James Alfini, the former Dean of Northern Illinois University School of Law, recommended the changes, under the supervision of Robert Anderson, presiding judge of domestic relations court.

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Faster, cheaper divorce:

The court also will begin tracking the results of mediation, in hopes the process leads to quicker, less costly divorces.

Last year, 3,600 divorces were filed. About 2,000 involved couples with children, most of whom disagreed over who should take care of the children. …