A divorce is one of the most trying situations a person may face. It’s tough enough to handle the emotional anguish, but throw in the hassles of legal representation, and it may feel impossible.
Most people think the only way to get a fair divorce is to go to court. This couldn’t be further from the truth. However, divorces can be resolved without ever stepping into a courtroom.
Collaborative divorce is an alternative. In this process, both spouses work together with their respective attorneys and other professionals (if necessary) to resolve all of the issues surrounding their divorce. This approach is faster, cheaper, and less stressful than going to court.
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A Step by Step Guide to Collaborative Divorce in Illinois
If you’re considering a collaborative divorce in Illinois, here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through the process.
Find an Attorney
The first step in the collaborative divorce process is finding an attorney who focuses her practice in collaborative divorce process, sometimes also called collaborative law. Collaborative attorneys are trained to work together with other collaborative attorneys and professionals to resolve all aspects of a divorce in ways that are most beneficial to the divorcing couple and their family.
Collaborative divorce is less adversarial than traditional divorce and often results in a more amicable settlement. Collaborative divorce is not suitable for every couple, but it may be a good option for couples willing to work together to resolve their differences.
If you are considering Collaborative Divorce, be sure to talk to an experienced Collaborative Divorce attorney to learn more about the process and whether it is right for you.
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Schedule a Consultation
Once you’ve found an attorney who practices collaborative law, schedule a consultation to discuss your case. This is where you’ll learn more about the collaborative process and whether or not it’s right for you. The attorney will likely ask you questions about what you hope to achieve through the collaborative process, provide information regarding other divorce alternatives, like mediation, or traditional litigated divorce, and they may also help you figure out whether collaborative process would be a good fit for your case and your family.
The attorney will want to talk to you about any potential roadblocks to collaboration, such as a history of domestic violence or a problematic relationship with your ex-partner.
Ultimately, deciding whether to pursue collaborative divorce will be up to you, but the consultation will give you a chance to learn more about the collaborative divorce process, other divorce alternatives and make an informed decision.
HIRE THE RIGHT ATTORNEY
Hiring the right attorney for you, not your friend, cousin, or next door neighboor
Making a Commitment
Collaborative divorce is a new way of resolving the issues in your divorce without going to court. You, your spouse, and each of your Collaborative attorneys sign a Participation Agreement committing to use the Collaborative Process to try to settle your case. You also agree that if you cannot settle your case Collaboratively, neither Collaborative attorney will represent either of you in court and will retain new counsel.
Collaborative divorce is different from the traditional divorce process in several important respects:
- Collaborative attorneys are trained to help clients settle their cases rather than litigate them.
- Collaborative attorneys cannot go to court on behalf of their clients if the Collaborative Process is unsuccessful.
- Parties in a Collaborative case meet with their attorneys to resolve all of their case’s issues, including child custody and visitation, support, and division of property.
- Collaborative cases are confidential.
- Experts may be used as part of the Collaborative Process to assist the parties in settling their cases.
- Decisions are made by the parties rather than by a judge; the Collaborative Process can save you time, money, and stress and give you greater control over the process.
- The Collaborative Divorce Process is different from the traditional litigated divorce in several important respects. The hallmarks of the process are:
- (1) respect for the parties’ right and ability to make their own decisions about what is best for themselves rather than to have someone else, such as a judge or other lawyers dictate the results to you.
- (2) The parties’ and attorneys’ commitment voluntarily to provide whatever information or documentation is necessary to reach a full and fair resolution of all the issues that matter to them or to the court rather than to have to resort to formal, coercive (and expensive!) discovery procedures.
- (3) The parties’ and attorneys’ commitment to deal with and resolve all issues in a way that minimizes costs and grief and maximizes the results for the family.
- (4) The parties’ commitment, when they need input from other professionals such as accountants, financial planners, child experts, and so on, to use professionals who are also trained in and committed to collaborative process so that the input is always geared toward helping resolve issues rather than stirring up more difficulties.
- (5) The parties’ and professionals’ commitment to always keep the children’s best interest in the forefront of the discussions about how to resolve child-related issues and to focus on resolution.
- (6) The appreciation for the fact that the children’s best interests absolutely include having both parents actively involved in the privileges and responsibilities of all aspects of the parenting relationship.
- (7) The parties’ commitment, when they need input from other professionals such as child experts, accountants, financial planners, and so on, to use professionals who are also trained in and committed to collaborative process so that the input is always geared toward helping resolve issues rather than stirring up more difficulties.
- (8) The ability of the parties to control the timing of the process and more ability than in other models to control the costs. That is, you — not a judge, or a bureaucrat — choose the timeframes, the dates to meet (subject to everyone’s schedules) and to get certain agenda items done and set the pace at which the matter moves.
- There are others — these are the ones that struck me as particularly relevant considering what Sara told me about your situation.
Collaborative Divorce Process
The next step is to begin the actual collaborative process. This involves working with your spouse and your attorneys to resolve all aspects of your divorce, including child custody, property division, and financial support.
The collaborative team usually consists of each spouse’s Collaborative attorney, a divorce coach, and a financial specialist.However, the collaborative team will be tailored to what you and your spouse need to give you the best chance of success in your collaborative process. You will have the support of your Collaborative attorney throughout the process. Your collaborative team will also work to spend your money wisely and minimize waste of resources.
The Collaborative attorneys will help productively guide the negotiations and advise you on legal issues.
The divorce coach will assist you, and your spouse to avoid conflicts, faultfinding, and rehashing old wounds.
The financial specialist will help you understand the financial implications of your divorce and assist with dividing assets and debts.
Collaborative Divorce Agreement
Once all issues have been resolved, the attorneys will prepare the documents necessary to finalize your divorce, and you and your spouse will sign a Marital Settlement Agreement, and if you have children a Parenting Allocation Judgment.
Your attorneys will file the case in court, as well as set your one and only court date for the conclusion of the case. On the appointed day and time, you and your spouse and your attorneys will appear in court to finalize the divorce process. Your attorney’s will ask you some questions regarding the terms of your agreement, and a judge will enter your divorce judgment.
The collaborative divorce process can effectively resolve all aspects of your divorce without litigating your case to court. However, if you’re considering a collaborative divorce in Illinois, follow the steps we discussed to ensure a smooth and successful process.
Collaborative divorce is an alternative to traditional litigation, which often involves lengthy court battles and can be expensive, stressful, and emotionally draining for all parties involved. In contrast, collaborative divorce is a much more amicable and efficient process that allows couples to reach a fair and equitable settlement tailored to their family.
Collaborative divorce is less costly and time-consuming than traditional litigation and allows couples to maintain control over the outcome of their divorce.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get started with Collaborative Divorce?
If you are considering a Collaborative Divorce, be sure to consult with an experienced Collaborative Divorce attorney who can help you navigate the process and protect your interests.
How much does a collaborative divorce cost in Illinois?
There are several things to consider when considering the cost of a divorce. First, with that in mind, the price of an IL divorce may differ significantly based on how contentious or complex it is. For example, a traditional litigated divorce can cost on average $10,000 to $25,000, and can be much higher in a contentious, litigated divorce.
How long does a collaborative divorce take in Illinois?
Although there is no waiting period in Illinois between filing for divorce and having it finalized by a judge, the couple need to meet the statutory requirement of living apart for 6 months or proceed by agreement, and most collaborative lawyers will work with their clients to settle on terms of arrangement before going through the legal process. The amount of time spent researching information and brainstorming options can vary from case to case, but should not exceed what’s needed when going through a contested divorce. Ultimately in a collaborative divorce the couple determing the timing and the pace of their divorce.
Collaborative divorce differs from a traditional litigated divorce because it focuses on what is important to the couple and tailors the process and the options to the couple and their family, rather than being limited to what a judge might order based on the divorce statute. The collaborative divorce process teaches and fosters better co-parenting and communication skills than a traditional divorce. It allows the couple to prioritize how they will divide their assets and debts in a way that works for their family and how much and how they will pay for their divorce. It leaves greater control over their divorce and their life to the couple rather than at the discretion of a judge and mercy of a court system. At the beginning of the collaborative divorce the couple commit to using the collaborative process and its’ protocols, full financial disclosure, maintaining status quo until they jointly reach other decisions, and that in the event they cannot resolve all of their issues in the collaborative process, agree that their collaborative professionals will not be able to represent them in a litigated divorce, each attorney would have to resign from the client’s representation. Although this concludes the collaborative divorce process and requires the attorneys to cease representation, the parties in the collaborative divorce always retain the option of moving forward with a litigated court proceedings.
How are matters settled in a collaborative divorce?
Interest-based bargaining is employed in collaborative divorces. It gives couples the tools to communicate better during and after the divorce process. If you would like to read more about this approach, you could start by reading “Getting to Yes”. In a collaborative divorce we avoid focusing on positions rather than concepts. Contrasting expectations about what the court would do are at the heart of a traditional adversarial system. However, in a collaborative divorce we focus on what the separating couple wants or needs. In collaborative practice, the goal is to create situations where the goals and interests of each person in going forward with their lives are better satisfied. Collaborative professionals look for ways to benefit not just his or her client, but also the family as a whole rather than just one individual. These discussions are known as interest-based or value-based discussions by lawyers and parties. The parties to a collaborative divorce hope that the absence of positioning will help them reach a better agreement that meets their family’s needs, improves their communication and co-parenting and hopefully saves them money and emotional anguish by avoiding litigation.
How is a case settled in a collaborative divorce if there is no pretrial conference?
Pretrial hearings are part of the traditional litigated process where a judge gives a pre-view as to how she or he might rule on the divorcing couple’s dispute. In a collaborative divorce it is replaced with team meetings between the lawyers, the divorcing couple, and any other professionals who will be helpful to the couple. The purpose of team meeting is to help the couple discuss their goals, concerns and fears in a supportive environment and reach an agreement on their disputed issues. Rather than seeing the other party as a problem and attacking them, the collaborative attorneys and the couple look at an and focus on methods to address it.” A colaborative divorce and the team meetings have a completely different tone from a typical divorce case.
Can you go back to court after a divorce is final? Absolutely. As a divorce attorney, I understand that things change. The parenting plan, finances, and life situations may look different years after the divorce is final, hence the need to possibly call your attorney and discuss going back to court, returning to collaborative process, or going to mediation to change your marital settlement agreement, and/or parenting plan.
Anna P. Krolikowska, President of The Illinois State Bar Association says, Collaborative is really catching on because people realize a divorce does not have to be screaming, yelling and many hearings inside a courtroom.
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On June 17 in Springfield, Northbrook-based family law attorney Anna Krolikowska was installed as the 145th president of the Illinois State Bar Association, and just the fifth woman selected as president after a statewide vote. Krolikowska won the vote in all 102 Illinois counties.
She’s served on the ISBA Board of Governors since 2014 and in its General Assembly since 2009. Involved with many ISBA committees, councils and boards during her tenure, Krolikowska is active with five bar associations and several other legal associations as well.
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Control. Sometimes we feel we are in control of a situation. Sometimes we feel as though we don’t have as much control over a situation. My clients frequently tell me they feel their lives start to go out of control when they are separating and contemplating divorce. Feeling in control of a situation is important for people.