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What happens in a collaborative divorce?

COLLABORATIVE LAW book in the hands of a attorney. Collaborative law, also known as collaborative practice, divorce or family law, is a legal process enabling couple

Divorcing couples in Illinois often face a lot of uncertainty while going through the process of ending a marriage. However, Elmhurst collaborative law attorneys know that keeping a divorce out of the courtroom can give both spouses more control over the outcome. By utilizing collaboration rather than litigation, couples may be able to determine the important issues that must be addressed when dissolving their marriage.

The divorce process is often complicated, emotional and difficult, but it can be made less painful when both spouses are willing to work together to come to an agreement on how to separate. Understanding what exactly happens during a collaborative divorce may be able to help couples decide whether it is the right option for their particular circumstances.

Determining if collaboration is the right fit

For some couples, it can be nearly impossible to be in the same room together. Making tough choices regarding issues that could impact their lives, as well as the lives of their children, may not be possible in these cases. The court may need to step in to make decisions on behalf of the couple regarding child custody (parental responsibility), property division or spousal maintenance.

A collaborative divorce only works if both spouses can commit to work in partnership in good faith to come to reach the agreements that benefit both parties. Each spouse must be willing to be honest and upfront about all issues, providing the necessary information in order to come to the fairest conclusions possible.

Signing a participation agreement

If collaboration is the right solution for a couple’s divorce, they need to each obtain Elmhurst collaborative law attorneys who have experience working with these types of cases. Each spouse and their lawyer are required to sign a participation agreement, which essentially outlines that both spouses are willing to cooperate with respect and honesty in order to avoid a litigious divorce in court. The attorneys must agree that they cannot represent their client should the collaborative settlement fail and the couple end up in court.

Building a collaborative team

In addition to each spouses’ attorneys, other professionals may be called in for help and advice regarding certain aspects of a divorce. The different professionals who may become involved in the collaborative divorce process varies depending on each couple’s unique circumstances, but often include the following:

  • Divorce coach
  • Financial specialist
  • Child specialist

Unlike in a traditional divorce, both spouses can use some of the same team members, aside from their attorneys, which can save the couple from larger expenses that may result from an adversarial divorce.

A divorce coach can be a helpful resource by provide emotional and mental support for each party. While these coaches do not replace the possible need for therapists, they can assist couples by promoting respectful listening, open avenues of communication and the placement of children’s needs above the parents. Divorce coaches are often mental health professionals with the training needed to guide couples through the issues that typically slow down collaborative divorces.

In many divorces, finances can be one of the most conflict-ridden issues. A financial specialist may be brought in to analyze a couple’s financial information in order to come up with the most beneficial outcome for each party. Serving as a neutral expert, a financial specialist can help facilitate a settlement that makes the best use of all assets during property division. The financial specialist that a couple chooses to hire may be a financial planner, an accountant or a specialized divorce financial planner.

A couple with children must realize that a divorce will likely have a lasting impact. During a collaborative divorce, a child specialist is used to minimize that impact. A child psychologist or professional child custody (parental responsibility) evaluator may be needed to meet with the parents and the children to assess the options that meet the best interest of the children. A child specialist often advises parents on what solutions regarding custody (parental responsibility) and visitation (parenting time) are ideal for a family’s unique situations.

Holding settlement meetings

Once a couple’s team of legal and professional experts is assembled, both parties and their lawyers meet together to sign legal documentation, including the participation agreement, and to outline goals and plans for how the process should continue. Additional meetings with each collaborative team member may be held where spouses resolve the different issues that must be addressed during a divorce, including decisions regarding parenting arrangements and marital property.

Multiple meetings may be needed to negotiate the final arrangements that are to be included in the divorce settlement, but couples may be able to save more time than they would were they to go through a contested divorce.

Filing the paperwork

In order to complete the process, a final agreement must be made. The couple’s attorneys draft the legal documents required by the state that must be signed by each spouse and filed with the court. Once the paperwork is filed, it is expected that each spouse will be held accountable to the settlement’s terms. Unlike in adversarial divorces, ex-spouses are much more likely to uphold the terms that they came to without being forced by a judge.

While a collaborative divorce is certainly not for everyone, it can be an ideal option for those couples who would like to avoid the time and expense required for a litigious divorce. Working with Elmhurst collaborative law attorneys may be the best solution for those looking to end their marriage without a fight.

Uncontested divorce lawyer Denise Erlich is passionate about helping divorcing couples in the greater Chicagoland area transition to their new life as seamlessly as possible. Ms. Erlich patiently guides her clients through every step of the divorce process and provides clients with candid advice about their case and legal options, so they can make informed decisions about their future.