The Collaborative Law Approach to Divorcing Without Children

Ending the Marriage Without Children

Marriage is considered one of the pillars in everyone’s life. Although its nature and structure evolve from traditional to more modern concepts, its purpose remains the same. Marriage represents the safe harbor in which we feel safe and loved. At least, that is what everyone expects when entering the matrimony.

Spouses who have children view marriage from a different perspective. Whether you expand your family with children or not, building a family nest and nurturing strong intimate relations between its members is an invaluable life experience.

However, some marriages come to an end. Due to unbridgeable differences between the spouses, their life together becomes unbearable or meaningless.

Divorce always brings strong emotions, such as resentment, anger, sadness, and anxiety. The emotional aspect of divorce is more pronounced when children are involved. Dealing with custody and parenting time is a stressful experience for parents and children. The biggest concern during divorce is protecting the children and their emotional wellbeing.

On the other hand, in marriages without children, spouses can focus on dealing with legal matters that revolve around financial issues.

Financial Issues Involved

Divorcing without children enables spouses to separate permanently and never cross their paths again if they choose to do so. They are not bound together as parents for the rest of their lives.

Although free from sharing parenting time and other child-related concerns, the divorcing spouses deal with three vital financial issues: identifying separate property, division of marital assets, and spousal support.

Before approaching the division of marital property, the spouses must first identify their separate property. That is the property each spouse had before marriage, such as the real estate, earnings acquired before entering the matrimony, etc. In Illinois, inheritance or gifts to one spouse are separate property, although the inherited property can turn into the marital property (depositing inherited money into a joint bank account). Sometimes a property one spouse acquired before the marriage (family home) is upgraded by the investment of the other spouse. In that case, the other spouse may seek compensation for the upgrades.

All other assets acquired during the marriage are considered marital property. In Illinois, judges divide marital property based on their sense of fairness. While dividing property, they consider various factors, such as the age and health of the spouses, their current income, including the projected economic standards of each spouse.

Spousal support or alimony is another financial issue that spouses without children address during the divorce. The so-called maintenance payments provide the lower-income spouse with the necessary means to support him or herself. In assessing the spousal support payments, the courts consider earning capacity of each spouse and their financial needs, including tax implications.

How Can Collaborative Law Help?

As an out-of-court dispute resolution method, collaborative law offers far more benefits in dealing with financial aspects of divorce than traditional litigation.

The central feature of the collaborative law process is the cooperation between the parties and their attorneys. With participation agreement, spouses commit to using their best efforts and conducting themselves in good faith. Unlike litigation, where the opposing attorneys engage in an all-or-nothing court battle, collaborative law attorneys cooperate in creating an atmosphere of trust. The spouses participate in multiple meetings, agreeing to disclose all material facts, including financial-related information. The openness and transparency of the collaborative law process make it best suitable for resolving complex financial matters involved in a divorce without children.

Identifying separate property and the division of marital property are interconnected aspects of dealing with property issues during divorce. In litigation, the judge divides property by considering multiple factors, such as the length of the marriage, contribution to marital property, the educational and career opportunities of the other spouse, etc. In Illinois, as a no-fault divorce state, the fact of one spouse engaging in adultery or other misconduct is irrelevant in marital property division. That may seem unfair, and it usually is.

On the other hand, collaborative law seeks to establish a common ground between the spouses. By working together in close cooperation, collaborative attorneys encourage spouses to settle property division issues. Instead of waiting for a binding decision of a state-appointed judge, the spouses control the process and negotiate a fair and mutually beneficial solution. Such an approach is always just for both sides.

Likewise, collaborative law proves to be a more compassionate approach to alimony, too. As mentioned, the courts analyze various factors when deciding on maintenance payments. However, judges usually do not consider the emotional effects of ordering spousal support. If one spouse is entitled to support, that does not mean that awarding them payments is always a fair decision. The judges ignore the underlying psychological factors of divorce. That is why they cannot find the right measure in ordering alimony.

Contrarily, collaborative attorneys understand the emotions behind each divorce, aware that feelings of guilt and resentment are often involved in separation. Insisting on maintenance payments for a spouse who contributed to a divorce is not fair, even if they are entitled to receive such payments (as a lower-income spouse). In many cases, the entitled spouse is not willing to receive alimony because of feelings of guilt for betraying their partner. The courts are blind in recognizing that.

Acknowledging emotional, psychological, and all other aspects of the divorce collaborative law process can offer fair and mutually beneficial outcomes to divorcing spouses.

Who Is Anna Krolikowska?

Anna Krolikowska is an experienced family lawyer and a President of the Illinois State Bar Association.

Certified mediator and collaborative law professional Anna offers a unique approach to marital dispute resolution.

Using sophisticated collaborative skills nurtured over a years-long career, she can help you successfully resolve key financial issues involved in a divorce without children.