Illinois Formalizes the Collaborative Law Process
Divorce does not have the best reputation for promoting civil and cooperative relationships between spouses. Traditional divorce actions pit the parties against each other in an adversarial process that does everything possible to limit — or completely cut off — direct contact. While this can make moving from the marriage easier, both emotionally and physically, the litigation model of standard divorce cases does not prepare the parties for working together over child custody, or allow them to have much a say in the terms of the divorce decree.
In recent years, the legal system has increasingly favored settling divorce cases in less contentious environments due to the practicalities of limited Court resources and also to facilitate a better outcome for the parties. This reduces the likelihood of needing to return to Court to settle additional issues.
A fairly new process in the alternative dispute resolution realm is collaborative divorce — mediation being the form with which most people are familiar— which was formalized into Illinois law this summer and will become effective January 1, 2018. Collaborative divorce is the least combative way to end a marriage, and in fact tries to give the parties a firm foundation for future interactions by teaching them more effective ways to communicate and cooperate.
Collaborative Divorce Overview
Collaborative divorce is designed as a non-adversarial process. To impress the importance of this point onto participants, each party must agree to suspend or forego litigation while the collaborative process is ongoing. This process is memorialized in the collaborative process participation agreement that outlines each party's commitment to avoiding Court intervention and to using certified collaborative divorce attorneys to facilitate the formation of a divorce settlement.
Attorneys who work with clients in collaborative divorce situations are present to advise their clients on the legal ramifications of settlement terms, and to assist the parties with finding compromises on sticking points. However, they do not act as intermediaries, requiring the parties to directly communicate with one another, and must withdraw from representation if the collaborative process fails and Court involvement is needed to settle outstanding issues.
In addition to the attorney, collaborative divorce commonly involves mental health and financial experts to help the parties navigate the difficult subjects of child custody, support and property division.
One big difference between traditional divorce and the collaborative process is the need for parties to fully and freely share all relevant information with each other — a process normally overseen by the Court. Open communication is essential for this process to work.
The collaborative process generally concludes when the parties reach an agreement on all issues. Court involvement is requested to settle a matter or one or both parties indicate a desire to withdraw from the process. Note that while the parties have control over the terms of the agreement, Court approval of the settlement is necessary for enforceability.
Benefits of the Process
As mentioned above, one of the chief advantages of collaborative divorce is the freedom and flexibility the parties have to craft a settlement that addresses all concerns and is structured to the needs of their family. Further, the non-adversarial atmosphere is conducive to fostering a more amicable divorce, which is important for parents who plan to share parental responsibilities in the future.
Also, like other forms of alternative dispute resolution, collaborative divorce keeps the details of a couple's split out of the public domain, and the new law specifically protects all communications and documents related to a collaborative divorce from disclosure in later proceedings, unless both parties consent.
Finally, collaborative divorce is a less expensive, faster and more efficient way to obtain a divorce.
Contact an Illinois Collaborative Divorce Attorney
Divorce is hard. However, divorce is not predestined to be a battle of wills. Collaborative divorce allows spouses to respectfully and civilly end their marriage on their terms. The Law Office of Nicholas W. Richardson, P.C. has extensive experience in the collaborative process, and can help you find the solutions your family needs to move forward. Contact a passionate Barrington family law attorney at the office today for a free initial consultation.