Collaborative divorce has become a popular method of dissolving a marriage which involves the parties negotiating settlement terms through a series of meetings outside of court. The parties and their respective attorneys sign an agreement at the outset which commits to using the collaborative process to resolve all issues, and they will not utilize the court system to resolve them. However, upon reaching a complete agreement, a case is then filed in court and the agreement is signed by a judge, making it legal and enforceable.
"The goals of collaborative divorce include reaching a settlement in the most amicable way possible and settling issues in a private and non-adversarial manner," explained Erin Webster O'Brien, family law attorney. "It also helps avoid the negative economic, social, and emotional consequences of protracted and acrimonious litigation."
Collaborative law resolves issues without litigation and without seeking a court-imposed resolution, instead relying on an atmosphere of honesty, transparency, cooperation, and professionalism. Further, all reasonable options are considered to maximize opportunities for a settlement. According to O'Brien, the great part of collaborative divorce is the ability to be creative with solutions. "Instead of having a judge impose certain rulings upon the parties, they can include certain terms that work for them in their own lives, which a judge may not order in a traditional divorce," she said.
"Collaborative divorce relies on a team to help both sides reach an equitable agreement," added O'Brien. "The collaborative lawyers represent the respective parties, and educate, advise, and otherwise assist the clients in working effectively with all other optional participants. A financial specialist is a neutral participant who can help with budgeting, cash flow, property division, tax issues, valuations, and understanding financial instruments. A coach can assist in preparing a spouse for meetings, improving communication, managing tasks, and developing co-parenting skills when children are involved. A child specialist can also be involved and meet with any children to understand their needs, provide them with a voice, and work with parents to create a parenting plan."
Collaborative divorce not only allows the parties to control the pace of their separation, but they can also transition into their new, separate lives in the most respectable manner possible.
For more information about collaborative divorce, please contact:
Erin Webster O'Brien, Attorney
President, Will County Bar Association