Do I have to use the Court Mediator?

Probably not. It depends on what type of case you have and on your judge. Most judges will allow the parties to pick a private mediator if they request it. The advantage is that a private mediator can often times get you in a lot faster than if you have to wait your turn to get into the mediator and is usually able to spend more time with the parties. Sometimes the court will only have one mediator-   for example, I Rolling Meadows courthouse had only one " in house"  custody mediator but recently discontinued having one.