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Collaborative Divorce in Illinois

Few people look forward to having to visit a lawyer. In most cases, having to hire a lawyer means you are involved in a stressful, contentious process, especially when you are getting a divorce. Fortunately, it does not have to be that way.  A collaborative divorce is a process which allows the parties to work together through all aspects of a divorce without battling in court.  The end result is a self-determined written agreement for parenting, finances and property allocation, with fully informed guidance along the way.  

 How Does it Work?

In a collaborative divorce, both parties have their own attorneys. However, both the parties and their attorneys go into the process not to punish or to win, but to work on an agreement crafted specifically for the parties’ needs and goals.

Before the process starts, both parties and their attorneys will sign an agreement which sets forth the “ground rules” for a collaborative divorce.  These might include:

Disclosure. Both parties must agree to disclose all relevant information and documents, including bank statements credit card statements, pay stubs, etc. The parties agree not to withhold information and not to take advantage of inadvertent mistakes or miscalculations made by themselves or the other party.  A financial neutral may be used to verify sources and uses of marital funds, or advise how assets can be equitably divided. 

Children. Often, a Child Specialist, a certified mental health professional with special training in child development, is brought into parenting discussions as part of the collaborative team.  The Child Specialist’s insight in making decisions for parenting matters is critical for a child’s best interest.

Divorce Coach.  Each party shall have an attorney to advocate in a collaborative divorce, but emotions are high, and bad patterns of communication between the parties will still occur.  A Divorce Coach, a collaboratively trained mental health professional, works with the parties individually and in joint meetings to assure the parties that they are being heard, that conflict is neutralized, and that the emotions of separating do not dissolve the progress made. 

No court. The parties agree that they will settle the matter among themselves, avoiding running to court and costly litigation. The collaborative process is confidential, so settlement discussions cannot be used in later proceedings, if the process is not successful.

Why Choose Collaborative Divorce?

There are many reasons why parties choose collaborative divorce. 

The primary reason is that the parties want control over their separation and divorce, and do not want a judge deciding how they should parent, allocate assets, or divide household income. They need an attorney to advocate for their position in a creative, respectful manner, and the collaborative process, often bringing in team members such as the Divorce Coach or financial neutral, gets them to this goal. 

Another important reason why parties choose collaborative divorce is for privacy.  There may be a family business involved and fighting in court would be devastating.  If a party is or has suffered from addiction or mental health issues, collaborative divorce gives the parties the ability to set parameters for their personal lives, as well as for their children, without going public.  Nobody wants their income, their assets, and their debts exposed in a court file; collaborative divorce offers the confidentiality to reach a financial agreement without such exposure.

The financial costs of a contested divorce can be devastating. Even though both parties hire their own attorneys in a collaborative divorce, their costs will be greatly reduced if they are not in court arguing over every small detail. When the parties are in charge of the process they are more likely to abide by the decisions that have been made and are less likely to demand changes later.

The emotional cost, both to the parties and to their children, of a contested divorce cannot be measured, but is often described as far worse than the financial burden. The emotional scars borne by children in highly contested divorce often last a lifetime.

Talk to an Illinois Attorney

Collaborative divorce will not work for everyone. If you think it might work for you, visit our website at or call us at 847-868-1860 for more information.


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