Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Parenting Classes/Mediation/Guardian ad Litems

Parenting Classes/Mediation/Guardian ad Litems

When there is a dispute regarding an issue relating to children, the parties must attend mediation and attend a parenting class. These requirements come from Supreme Court Rules 923 and 924, which state that “[t]he parents shall show proof of completion of an approved parenting education program as required by Rule 924, provide a fixed schedule for compliance, or show cause to excuse compliance,” and that “the court shall schedule the matter for mediation” at the initial case management conference.

Mediation can be waived or excused for good cause. Locally, mediation runs anywhere from $120 to $175 per hour. The cost is usually split between the parties. In my experience, the normal length of mediation is 2-3 sessions. With the time and money involved, it is a significant incentive for folks to come to some agreement rather than endure through the mediation process. It is important to note that the mediator usually only discusses child-related issues, excluding financial issues such as child support. Mediation, unless agreed otherwise by the parties, does not involve the property and financial issues of the divorce—it is solely focused on the children. Nothing said in mediation can be used against a party later on during the trial, so it is a great opportunity to openly discuss the issues without worrying about something being used against you later.

However, mediation should not be viewed as something to completely avoid. When there are a few points upon which the parties cannot see eye-to-eye on, it is usually a good idea to see a mediator on the parties’ own volition in order to quickly resolve such disputes. Such measures by the parties will usually save them from large legal fees and court time in the long run.  

I am a certified Guardian ad Litem (GAL). If necessary, the court will appoint a GAL to protect the best interest of the children. In most cases, this includes an investigation and the filing of a report and recommendation with the court. A GAL’s investigation can be quite extensive, including the interviewing of extended family members, friends, teachers, and physicians. The cost of a GAL is significant. Currently, in McLean County, the parties are typically ordered to split the $200 per hour fee that GAL’s charge. With the time and investigation takes, and the attendance of the trial by the GAL, the costs for having a GAL are substantial.

The message that I hope I am conveying here is that it is well worth the time and effort to attempt some sort of a settlement when it comes to the child-related issues in a divorce. Not only does it save each party significant money and time, but it will spare the children from being made apart of their parents’ disputes more than they already are. If you or any one you know needs to schedule an appointment with a mediator, please have them contact my office. While I am not a mediator myself, I can certainly point people in the direction of a few mediators that I trust in the area.    



This communication is not legal advice.

This material is produced by Jon McLaughlin. It is intended to provide general information in summary form on legal topics, current at the time of first publication. The contents do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular matters.



Jon D. McLaughlin, Esq.
Cannell & Maulson, P.C.
211 West Jefferson Street
Bloomington, Illinois 61701
(309) 319-6206
JonDwainMcLaughlin@gmail.com