If parents are unable to reach an agreement on custody, visitation, or other major issues related to the children, they should consider mediation. A mediator specializes in helping people reach an agreement that is fair and will last. The sessions are non-binding and confidential. For the purposes of a Joint Parenting Agreement, the main topics of discussion would be custody and visitation. The verbal agreements become binding once they are put into a written agreement (Parenting Agreement) that is executed by both parents. Mediation is not appropriate in cases where there is a genuine issue of physical or sexual abuse of the child or one of the parties. It would be important to get a legal advisor such circumstances. The mediator’s role is not to take sides, but to bring the two sides together. This can be helpful in settling any areas of custody or visitation that the parties were unable to work out on their own, enabling the parents to enter into a Joint Parenting Agreement.
In Illinois, if parents are unable to come to an agreement over custody or visitation, the court will require mediation with a court-appointed mediator. The court maintains a list of certified mediators.
In Cook County, parents will be referred to Family Mediation Services for mediation if they are unable to agree to a mediator.