Year started: 2007
Neutrals: Judges, or those with law degree or advanced behavioral science degree and court approval.
Eligibility: Dissolution cases involving custody, visitation or financial disputes.
Free Mediation Services Available?: No
Local Rule 308 of the 7th Judicial Circuit Court Rules of Practice establishes the court's Family Mediation Program. The program is operated in Sangamon County and provides mediation services for contested issues of child custody, visitation and removal, as well as financial or property issues in divorce cases.
The rule mandates mediation for all custody, visitation and removal disputes. Financial or property issues may also be mediated at the request of the parties or by court order. Mediation referrals will not be made by the court if there are allegations of child abuse, or evidence of other impediments, such as mental illness or substance abuse.
Rule 308 provides different referral procedures for indigent and non-indigent cases. For non-indigent cases, the parties are responsible for paying mediation fees at a rate agreed to with their mediator, whom they are able to choose from a list of court-approved mediators. To obtain court approval, mediators must possess a law degree, or an advanced degree in a field that deals substantially with marriage, family or interpersonal relationships. Family mediators must complete a 40-hour circuit-approved family mediation training program. For those mediators who are attorneys with at least five years of experience in family law, or who are certified as child representatives, this requirement may also be satisfied by completing a 20-hour circuit-approved training program. Financial issues mediators must possess at least a juris doctor degree, or be a certified public accountant or financial planner, and complete a specialized 40-hour training program.
Indigent cases are referred to judicial mediation, which is provided free of charge. This program is only available for cases involving child custody, visitation and removal. Judges who serve as mediators must complete a 40-hour family mediation training program and receive approval from the Chief Judge to conduct child custody proceedings. The Chief Judge assigns mediating judges to those cases referred to judicial mediation.
Parties are required to attend each mediation session. If a party fails to attend a session, the court may issue sanctions for mediator and attorney costs. Mediators determine whether attorneys may attend mediation sessions, and whether minor children will be interviewed during mediation. Attorneys are not allowed to attend judicial mediation sessions without approval of the mediating judge.
Judicial mediations are initially scheduled to last two hours, although the mediating judge may extend the session. The rule does not specify time limits for court-referred mediation sessions.
When an agreement is reached in court-referred mediations, the mediator will submit an informal memorandum of understanding to both parties for review. The parties and their attorneys are responsible for drafting a final agreement and submitting it to the court for approval.
For agreements reached in judicial mediation, the mediating judge must find that the agreement on at least one qualifying issue "could reasonably be" in the best interest of the child involved. Upon such a finding, the mediating judge files a provisional court order containing the terms of the agreement, which is then be sent to the original trial judge for review and approval.
For both types of mediation, the rule stipulates that all information communicated during mediation sessions is confidential, and mediators may not be called to disclose such information in court.
Illinois Seventh Judicial Circuit. Oct. 1, 2017
Resource Type: Rules - Court
Abstract: The family court rules for Illinois' Seventh Judicial Circuit serving Sangamon County.
Rule 308 establishes the court's Family Mediation Program and provides information on mediator education and training. The rule also offers standards and procedur...Illinois Supreme Court. Article I - Illinois Supreme Court General Rules, Oct. 10, 2001
Resource Type: Rules - Court
Abstract: This rule authorizes judicial circuits to undertake mediation programs. Circuits electing to establish mediation program are directed to adopt rules for the conduct of mediation proceedings and to submit them to the Supreme Court. The Rule specifies ...
Suzann MaxheimerTrial Court Administrator
Seventh Judicial Circuit
200 S. Ninth St., Rm 522
Springfield, Illinois 62701