No, you certainly do not have to wait to go to court before you can mediate. Many people choose to mediate a dispute early on with the hopes of avoiding a lawsuit all together. That being said, depending on the type of dispute that you are having, court may still be a necessary step. For example, if your ultimate goal is to be divorced, you still need to head over to your Illinois state court to have a divorce filed so that the judge can make it legal. The difference being that if you mediate in advance, the divorce can be streamlined as all of the major decisions have already been successfully negotiated. This may also make your divorce less expensive.