Collaborative Divorce Offers Illinois Couples a New Option

Imagine if, instead of fighting each other with anger and hostility, you and your divorcing spouse could agree to resolve all of your issues in a respectful, open and honest manner, without going to court. This type of divorce, called collaborative divorce, is becoming increasingly popular and available, since Illinois passed the Illinois Collaborative Process Act.  The law sanctions a team-based approach to amicable divorces and establishes the benchmarks for a true collaborative process.

Divorce, dividing property, deciding what is best for children, and other family law issues are emotionally charged issues that are life-changing for everyone involved.  If appropriate, collaborative divorce may make it easier for everyone; but to determine whether the process is right for you, it makes sense to consult an experienced family law attorney.

The seasoned and compassionate Illinois family law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. always focus on our clients’ needs and feelings, and we work to clarify and resolve the issues they are facing in the most effective and efficient manner. We offer a free consultation to help you find the best solution for your individual situation.  Call us today for your free consultation at 630-305-0222, or contact our team online.


What is Collaborative Divorce?

In a collaborative divorce, both parties agree to resolve all issues in a respectful, open and honest manner, and to focus on constructive problem-solving outside of the court system. Each spouse has their own attorney, who is trained in the collaborative process.  The attorneys make sure their clients are aware of their legal rights and obligations relating to property, alimony, and children, and they seek a satisfactory resolution for everyone concerned.

Spouses and their attorneys sign a legally binding contract called a Participation Agreement, stating their commitment to resolve issues according to collaborative principles and guidelines. The parties agree that the objective is to reach a settlement.  Consequently, the collaborative attorneys may not represent their clients if the process breaks down and goes to litigation.

In addition to the attorneys, a team of professionals is hired to deal with specific issues relating to the divorce, often including a parenting specialist, financial specialist and a divorce coach. Depending on the situation, there may be additional specialists called in, such as business valuation experts, appraisers, estate planning attorneys and actuaries.

During the collaborative process, a series of meetings are held where the couple is guided through the process by their attorneys in a structured, non-adversarial way.  The focus is on legitimate issues, needs and interests. Depending on the issue being worked on, other members of the team may attend the meetings, and sometimes the parties will meet with one of the other professionals without the lawyers.

Once everyone agrees, the collaborative attorneys prepare the necessary documents, and everything is presented to the judge for approval and entry of judgment.


What are the Differences between the Collaborative and Litigated Processes?

A hostile, litigated divorce is among life’s most stressful events and can take a toll on both parties and their attorneys. A collaborative divorce is much less stressful, as the process should defuse and not create animosity.  Differences in the processes include:

  • Timing – In a litigated divorce, the courts set the pace for the process; for a collaborative divorce, the requirements of the individuals involved determine the pace, as they tackle each issue. Many Illinois collaborative lawyers wait until the settlement agreement has been reached to file anything with the court.
  • Cost – The collaborative process costs less, as the parties share the costs of needed experts to resolve differences. There is no need to pay lawyers to issue discovery or subpoenas, and the experts do not have to battle in court, as during litigation.
  • Resolution of disputed issues -- In a collaborative case, the problem-solving approach creates options that take into consideration the legitimate needs of the spouses and children.  Both parties should wind up satisfied with the agreement, since they have been involved in the process, even if they don’t completely get their way.  During litigation, lawyers argue for their client’s position and against the spouse. A judge ultimately makes the decision, which may not meet the needs of the family.
  • Obligations – In litigation, a lawyer works solely to benefit their own client, while a collaborative divorce lawyer has the obligation to ensure that both parties are actively working to stay focused on the issues and solve issues. Parties are expected to treat one another in a respectful and dignified manner. The professionals involved are working together to help the couple, not working to score points and win.


Are You a Candidate for Collaborative Divorce?

The best candidates for collaborative divorce are people who wish to remain civil with their divorcing spouse and come to a resolution that benefits everyone. Those who are too angry to work together, or who want to see their spouse suffer, or who cannot be open and truthful, will not be successful in collaboration.

A successful collaboration is like a business transaction that takes into account the best interest of both spouses and their children, the need for a fair financial agreement, and the desire to achieve a peaceful settlement.  Collaborative divorce probably is not appropriate for cases involving extreme domestic violence or mental illness.  And, for the process to work, it is necessary for both lawyers to understand, be trained in, and be committed to the principles of collaborative divorce.

Contact Us For Help

The seasoned Illinois family law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec handle all divorce cases with sensitivity, respect, and discretion. We understand the principles of collaborative divorce and will analyze your situation to see if it can work in your individual case.

At Wolfe & Stec, Ltd., we made our reputation one client at a time, and we put every ounce of our ability into every case. There are no ready-made solutions in divorce and family law – every case needs to be considered on its own merit. Our lawyers take the time to delve deeply into the problems and to understand your goals and concerns. Then we develop a legal strategy designed to achieve those objectives and allow you to resolve issue as quickly, fairly, and peacefully as possible.

There is no charge for the first consultation. Delaying can only complicate your situation and make matters worse.