Legal separation, divorce mediation, and collaborative divorce are three alternatives to contested divorce in Illinois. These options are cost-friendly and provide the divorcing parties a less stressful emotional journey. These solutions require the divorcing parties to work in close collaboration towards an amicable end.
Legal separation may be an option for couples who do not want to live together as spouses and be responsible for the other spouse’s future debts and liabilities but wish to maintain a legal marriage, possibly for religious reasons or to try to preserve certain benefits like health insurance. An Illinois resident can obtain legal separation by filing a petition with the family law court. The court then grants an enforceable court order, which defines the rights and responsibilities of each party while the couple is separated. The court order may include provisions on property distribution and spousal support. It may also include guidelines on child support and custody if there are minor children involved.
Many Illinois couples rely on divorce mediation to help them settle their differences amicably outside of court. Mediation seeks to find neutral and binding solutions in light of the spouses’ differences while maintaining a civil relationship between both parties. For divorce mediation to be successful, both parties must be able to communicate respectfully and honestly and they both must be committed to ending the marriage on good terms.
Divorce mediators are neutral parties prohibited from biased actions towards either spouse. The mediators guide the divorcing couples in drawing up plans that will help them reach a binding agreement. Couples who choose divorce mediation generally enjoy more flexibility and privacy than they would if their divorce was settled in court.
In a collaborative divorce, each spouse will hire his or her own family law attorney who has been trained in collaborative law. The spouses will sign a participation agreement committing to resolving their divorce issues outside of court. If the process fails and the case goes to court, the parties must hire new divorce lawyers to represent them.
The divorcing couple and their lawyers will attend meetings to address parenting arrangements, the division of marital property, finances, and other applicable topics. Experts such as a divorce coach, financial advisor, or child psychologist may be called upon to assist in the collaborative divorce process. While multiple meetings are often needed to negotiate the final arrangements, couples will still likely save time and money by choosing a collaborative divorce over a contested divorce.