Divorce is never going to be easy, but there are ways to make it easier on yourself and all involved. While most couples go to court and wrangle their divorce into shape through the standard, traditional means, some are bold enough to try other options. One of these which has been gaining popularity in recent years is the idea of collaborative divorce. Instead of the adversarial nature of a court proceeding, the spouses put together a team and try to negotiate a divorce agreement between them. While it is not for everyone, collaborative divorce can be surprisingly effective.
Essentially, a collaborative divorce is a process in which you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse sit down, with a team of professionals to assist you, and negotiate a divorce agreement between yourselves, rather than entrusting that task to a court. Each spouse must retain an independent attorney, but the main feature of a collaborative divorce is that other professionals may be brought into the process. Such professionals may include, for example, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), or a specialist on child care. The rationale is that no one is an expert in all things, but there is no reason why the experts should not be available to you. It is with the help of all these people that you and your spouse will negotiate, and the reason for adjunct help, so to speak, is to ensure that relations remain calm and relaxed.
Before commencing negotiations, though, you and your spouse must sign a legally binding contract called a Participation Agreement, which states that both spouses will commit to reaching an agreement based on collaborative principles as opposed to litigation. This does not preclude you eventually going to court if you cannot reach an agreement, but it does illustrate a commitment to trying the collaborative process until it is obvious it will not succeed. After the Agreement is signed, negotiations can begin.
The Role of the Team
The major difference between collaborative divorce and mediation is that during collaborative divorce, a small team of professionals helps guide you and your spouse to make the most appropriate and practical decisions. Mediation requires you to go it alone, and very often, this can lead to a spouse getting less than they wanted to because they were too shy to speak up. The Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois recommends at least four people on your team: an attorney, a financial specialist, a divorce/life coach, and a specialist in child-related matters. With the exception of your attorney and, in some cases, the divorce coach, these professionals are neutral parties who will help you work with your spouse for the greater good.
Once you have an agreement you are both satisfied with, you must go to court for one hearing to have it entered, thus finalizing the divorce. This hearing is called a prove-up in Illinois and is generally very short, as its purpose is to have your petition for dissolution of marriage approved and a judgment entered. Obviously, if there are problems or legal standards are not met, then adjustments will be made, but generally, if your agreement is reasonable, it will be accepted.
Get the Collaborative Process Started
Collaborative divorce is not for everyone, especially if the breakdown of your marriage has been acrimonious. If you think it may work for you, the next step is to consult a knowledgeable attorney. Our passionate DuPage County collaborative divorce lawyers are ready and willing to work with you to hopefully arrive at a satisfactory outcome. Contact our offices today to set up an initial consultation.