After soul-searching and months of counseling or therapy, you’ve made the difficult decision to end your marriage. You want a peaceful divorce. You want the chance to remain amicable, if not friendly when the process is over.
Parties to a divorce do not always have to be adversaries devoting their precious time and money to contentious litigation. Collaborative law is an innovative method for how to approach a divorce, as it enables the parties to resolve their disputes and end their marriage with minimal court involvement. Though no single approach to divorce is right for every couple, more and more couples are embracing collaborative law as an alternative to litigation or mediation.
To begin the collaborative law process, the parties must each retain their own collaboratively-trained attorneys who agree, in writing, to work together to help the couple reach a mutually beneficial settlement without having to go to court. The parties meet privately with their respective attorneys and may retain additional experts, such as divorce coaches, neutral financial professionals, and child specialists collectively referred to as “team members,” who provide unbiased expert advice to guide the parties towards an amicable resolution. When the final agreement is reached, the collaborative lawyers prepare all final settlement documents and accompany the parties to court to finalize their case.
In the event that the parties are unable to reach an agreement and one or both of the parties elect to take the matter to court, the attorneys and “team members” are disqualified from representing either party or otherwise participating in the adversarial proceedings. This encourages the parties and the attorneys to cooperate and problem-solve, reduces the likelihood of excess conflict, and enables the parties to resolve their disputes efficiently.
In family law cases, the most commonly used service (outside of the hiring of legal counsel in this process) is mediation; perhaps the most attractive aspect of mediation is that it can be tailored to suit the needs of each individual dispute. The mediator can play a low-key and conciliatory role or take on a more proactive role by making suggestions and probing for convergent interests. WARD FAMILY LAW, LLC, can guide you through the process as the neutral, third-party mediator; mediation is often is employed after it becomes apparent that direct negotiation between adversaries will not resolve the dispute efficiently. However, anyone contemplating mediation must also consider the need to secure guidance of legal counsel, as parties are oftentimes not aware of what their rights and responsibilities are, much less what the current laws and trends are in regards to assets, liabilities, maintenance, child support, parental allocation and have difficultly navigating the mediation process without the simultaneous guidance of legal counsel.
Mediation for domestic relations cases in Cook County, Illinois, is governed by Cook County Circuit Court Rule 13.4. Mediation is a non-binding, confidential process by which a neutral third party, selected by the parties to the case or selected by or with the assistance of the court, assists the parties in reaching a mutually acceptable agreement. The role of the mediator is to assist in identifying the issues, reducing misunderstandings, exploring and clarifying the parties’ respective interests and priorities, and identifying and exploring possible solutions that will satisfy the interests of all parties and thereby facilitate the resolution of some or all of the issues in dispute.
Mediation is required pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule for parents who are in conflict over the allocation of parental responsibilities, relocation, and other non-child support issues related to their children. In Cook County, the parents will be referred to Family Mediation Services for mediation if they cannot agree to a mediator.
The Court may order mediation for non-child related issues. Examples of non-child related issues that may be subject to mediation include but are not limited to disputes over debts, assets, and money. If the parties cannot agree to the selection of a mediator for non-child related issues, the Court will choose a mediator from the list of court-certified mediators.
Is either one right for you? Contact WARD FAMILY LAW, LLC, for an initial consultation in regards to our mediation or collaborative law services.
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