What is Collaborative Divorce?
Before getting into the specifics of speaking to your spouse about collaborative divorce, let us briefly outline the main characteristics of this alternative dispute resolution method.
A collaborative divorce is a legal process of dissolving a marriage in which each spouse retains their attorney to work together towards reaching a fair and mutually beneficial settlement.
In some cases, collaborative divorce cannot yield positive outcomes due to a history of domestic violence, or refusal by one or both of the spouses to engage in the collaborative process in good faith – going to court and letting the state-appointed judge resolves the dispute then seems like the only solution.
However, for spouses willing to sit at a negotiation table, or in a virtual session and bridge their differences through constructive talks, out-of-court divorce appears most suitable.
Knowing the basics, take a look at tips you can use when talking with your spouse about collaborative divorce:
- Present It As an Option Worth Considering
When persuading your spouse to use collaborative divorce process to resolve your divorce-related dispute, portray it as an alternative to traditional litigation. Present the court process, highlighting its flaws. Then compare it to a collaborative divorce. Start by explaining that litigation is an adversarial, often vindictive process in which two sides fight over access to the kids, and/or who wins financial compensation and other benefits. The publicity of litigation means everyone has access to sensitive personal information. The process is emotionally and financially draining because each phase (discovery, opening statements, witness testimonies, and closing arguments) carries additional costs due to attorneys, experts and court filing fees. Because of the heavy caseloads, you can wait months (or even years) to appear in the first court session. The delays in the already overburdened court system were exacerbated even further throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. As a vindictive process, litigation cannot bring reconciliation and produce positive psychological effects. Instead, it can ruin relationships, leaving deep emotional scars on children who suffer the most from seeing their parents’ combative behavior, or worse, being pulled into their parents’ divorce process. In contrast to litigation, out-of-court methods provide flexibility, effectiveness, simplicity, and privacy, offering numerous benefits litigation lacks. Finally, the differences between conventional court procedures and collaborative divorce should be sufficient to convince everyone to choose the latter.
- Emphasize the Benefits of Staying Out of Court
After presenting the flaws of traditional litigation, then emphasize the benefits of staying out of court. By signing a representation agreement, spouses commit to acting in good faith, sharing financial information, and promising to invest their best efforts to settle. The collaborative divorce attorney cannot represent the client in court if the collaborative divorce fails—which is another benefit of this method. Your collaborative divorce attorney is committed to helping you success in your collaborative divorce process. Furthermore, the collaborative divorce process is transparent, enabling the free flow of information between the disputing spouses. The rules of collaborative law require parties to disclose all material information and accurately represent facts. Unlike litigation, spouses engaging in collaborative divorce can rest assured because their personal information remains confidential. Finally, collaborative divorce means you will not be required to appear in court – except once, for a prove-up, when your settlement agreement is preseted to a judge and your divorce judgment is entered. That is a pro forma hearing, where your attorney’s will ask a few basic questions, to which you already know the answers, so that the judge can finalize your divorce. There are also counties in Illinois, where you can avoid even appearing in court for the prove-up, and finalize your divorce by submitting the finalized settlement agreements and affidavits for the judge to review and approve.
- Focus on Lower Costs
Litigation is known as a financially draining process. Compared to court procedures, collaborative divorce is far less expensive. Unlike litigation, there are no endless motions and pleadings, discovery, adversarial hearings, and unpredictable costs. Instead, attorneys, and often other professionals, like financial neutrals or coaches, work shoulder-to-shoulder to bring about a mutually beneficial settlement, and built-in efficiencies into the process to save you time and money . In doing so, they engage in informal communication, prep and help you prepare for all collaborative, and utilize the services of other professionals. For example, a financial neutral can be much more efficient not only in reviewing the financial information, but at helping the couple and their collaborative attorneys identify and examine settlement options. This approach costs significantly less than discovery in a litigated divorce. No court filing fees are involved, helping spouses settle their disputes timely and cost-effectively.
- Identify Common Incentives
Speak to your spouse openly about common incentives for initiating a collaborative law process. Apart from rare cases (with a history of violence, or refusal to engage in collaborative process in good faith), it should be clear that both spouses have strong incentives to resolve disputed matters out of court. Couples can have different motives for accepting an out-of-court divorce. While some prefer the lower costs of collaborative divorce, others choose it because of its reconciliatory effects. Therefore, knowing common incentives between you and your spouse is crucial for initiating the collaborative divorce and persisting until you settle the disagreement.
- Highlight the Non-Adversarial Aspect
Collaborative divorce resembles litigation because attorneys representing each party are involved. But there is a difference – collaborative lawyers cooperate in helping their clients negotiate disputes. No third person resolves the conflict. The spouses decide what divorce settlement terms work for them and their family. Spouses invest effort in good faith negotiations to resolve the matter with the help of collaborative attorneys in a non-adversarial procedure.
About Anna Krolikowska
Anna P. Krolikowska is a distinguished collaborative divorce attorney practicing law in suburban Chicago. Her main office is located in Northbrook, Illinois, with satellite offices in Northwest and West suburbs. Anna also offers virtual appointments.
In her years-long career, Ms. Krolikowska established a reputation as a top-notch negotiator with a proven record of success.
Upholding the highest ethical and professional standards, she will commit to representing your interests while cooperating with the other side’s attorney in bringing the best possible outcomes.
She has been recognized as one of the Best Lawyers in America 2023 (U.S. News), a Super Lawyer 2019-2023), and Top 50 Women Lawyers 2021, 40 Under 40 Lawyers 2019, and a Leading Lawyer 2021-2022 by the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.