Court-Ordered Mediation



Katherine “Kitty” McCarthy is a retired circuit judge who has handled every type of civil, family, and probate dispute during her 16 years on the bench.  She has turned her focus to mediation since her retirement in December of 2014 and has already handled a variety of disputes in mediation, both private and court ordered.

Since 1996, Kurt Bickes has mediated several hundred family law cases, including divorces, custody/visitation disputes, parentage cases and contested guardianships. He also has a very active law practice that concentrates in civil, business, and family law litigation.

In 2007, the State of Illinois implemented mandatory mediation for parties with children involved in custody or visitation disputes.  On January 1, 2016, the NEW amendments to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act went into effect, which brought about extensive changes to the law in Illinois.  Both mediators are currently knowledgeable as to these changes and are certified as approved mediators for court-ordered mediations in Macon County, as well as in all of the surrounding Illinois counties.

  • Champaign
  • Christian
  • Clay
  • Clinton
  • DeWitt
  • Douglas
  • Effingham
  • Fayette
  • Jasper
  • Macon
  • Marion
  • Montgomery
  • Moultrie
  • Piatt
  • Shelby


Parties involved in custody/visitation litigation will at some point be told by their attorneys or the Court that they have to participate in the mediation process. Court mandated custody/visitation mediations typically last anywhere between three and five hours and can generally be completed in one day. The parties are free to agree upon the mediator they want to use, and if they cannot agree, the Court generally selects the mediator from a rotating list of available mediators. The parties are then directed to contact the mediator and set up a mediation appointment. When parties contact the McCarthy-Bickes Mediation office to set up mediation, they will be directed to the scheduler who will work with the parties in order to find a mutually convenient date and time. Once a mediation appointment is confirmed, the parties are sent a confirming letter, along with a Mediation Fee Agreement, a Mediation Intake Form, and other materials designed to prepare the parties for the mediation process.

While the vast majority of these court-ordered mediations involve only the parties and not their attorneys, the parties are encouraged to meet with their attorney prior to the mediation session so that the attorney can help prepare his or her client for negotiations with the other party. The more the parties know about the issues and the positions that would be taken at trial, if necessary, the more prepared the parties will be. Both Kitty McCarthy and Kurt Bickes have a primary goal to always bring the parties together at the same table, but, depending on the circumstances, from time to time, it may be more appropriate for the mediator to conduct “shuttle” type negotiations, with the individual parties being addressed separately.

At the conclusion of the mediation session, the parties’ agreement is reduced to writing into a Parenting Plan, which is distributed to both of the parties and their attorneys. Typically, the parties then jointly instruct their attorneys to convert this Parenting Plan into an appropriate Agreed Plan, which is then presented to the Court to be entered as a Judgment of Parental Responsibility and Parenting Time. This entire process, from mediation to entry of a Judgment, is very expedient and less costly than resolving these issues through court litigation.

IMG_9999_61If you have been directed to participate in mandatory custody/visitation mediation and you desire to utilize the mediation services of either Kitty McCarthy or Kurt Bickes, you can initiate the process by calling their office in Decatur, Illinois (217-423-7225) or by emailing them at