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IL divorce lawyerMany people are surprised to learn that deciding how to end their marriage can be just as difficult as the decision to divorce. There are several different ways that you can end your marriage in Illinois. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. In this blog, we discuss the advantages of using collaborative law to resolve divorce issues. Collaborative divorce is a cooperative process in which spouses work together to negotiate, and hopefully, reach an agreement on divorce issues.

Collaborative Divorce Prioritizes Cooperation and Civility

There is no doubt about it, the more contentious your divorce, the greater the cost – both financially and personally. Most divorcing spouses want to maintain as much civility as possible when they get divorced both for their own sake and the sake of their children. In a collaborative divorce, spouses and other participants agree to negotiate in good faith, share information freely, and maintain a respectful attitude toward each other. This is not to say that collaborative divorces are void of any conflict. However, collaborative divorce cases typically involve less hostility than cases resolved through litigation.

The Information and Discussions Are Confidential

When discussing divorce issues like asset division, child custody, and spousal support, you will almost certainly divulge personal details. If you are like most people, you want to avoid confidential information about your income, assets, or lifestyle from being publicly available. Unlike hearings, depositions, and other aspects of the divorce litigation process, the negotiations and conversations that you have during collaborative meetings are confidential.

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Oak Brook family law mediation attorneyGetting divorced involves much more than deciding not to be married anymore. Most divorcing couples will need to address several issues before they can finalize their divorce and officially end their marriage. Spouses will need to decide how to divide their jointly held property and debts. Parents must create a parenting plan that describes the parenting time schedule and other important child-related concerns. Some couples will need to address spousal maintenance or alimony. One option for reaching an agreement about divorce issues such as these is family law mediation.

Advantages of Using Mediation to Resolve Your Divorce

Some couples voluntarily attend family law mediation to discuss divorce issues. Other couples are required to attend mediation by the court. During mediation, the mediator helps the couple negotiate the unresolved divorce issues and find common ground. The mediator uses his or her dispute resolution skills to deescalate emotional conversations and help the couple discuss difficult topics calmly and productively. The mediator’s ultimate goal is to help the couple reach a mutually beneficial agreement on the terms of their divorce so that they can avoid taking the case to litigation.

Limitations of Using Mediation to Resolve Divorce Issues

Mediation can be a great way to discuss divorce issues and reach an agreement. However, mediation is not without its limitations. Mediation alone may be insufficient if a divorcing couple is contending with:

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Elmhurst collaborative divorce attorneyTo be granted a divorce in Illinois, you and your spouse must decide how to resolve issues like property division, spousal maintenance, child support, and child custody. If you are unable to reach a settlement, your divorce case will go to trial. During divorce litigation, spouses and their respective attorneys present arguments and evidence to the judge. The judge then makes a decision about the unresolved issues on the parties’ behalf. Collaborative divorce, or using collaborative law to settle a divorce, is a relatively new form of alternative dispute resolution. Through collaborative law, you may be able to resolve divorce issues without taking your divorce to trial.

How Can Collaborative Law Help Me Resolve Divorce Issues?

During a collaborative divorce, the spouses each retain their own attorney. Next, the spouses and their respective attorneys hold a series of meetings to discuss the unresolved divorce issues. Accountants, real estate agents, child experts, and other professionals may also participate in these meetings. Every participant – including the spouses - agrees to negotiate in good faith and to fully disclose relevant information and documents. The parties also typically agree that if the case cannot be resolved and goes to trial, the lawyers must withdraw from the case. This so-called “no court” agreement ensures that the participants are motivated to resolve the issues during the collaborative meetings and avoid going to trial.

Why Choose Collaborative Divorce Over Litigation?

The litigation process is often contentious by its very nature. The fundamental difference between collaborative divorce and traditional divorce litigation is that collaborative law is cooperative rather than antagonistic. The spouses and their attorneys are not trying to win or lose. Instead, the objective is to reach a mutually-agreeable solution so that the spouses can resolve the situation and move on with their lives. Litigation is also usually more expensive and time-consuming than alternative resolution methods like collaborative divorce.

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Naperville divorce mediation attorneysParents who are getting divorced in Illinois are asked to create a “parenting plan” or parenting agreement which describes the way they plan to share parenting time and responsibilities. There are over a dozen issues which must be addressed in the plan, including when the child will live with each parent, how the child will be transported between homes, how future modifications to the plan will be handled, and more. Family law mediation may be particularly beneficial to divorcing couples with child-related disputes. If you and your spouse are planning to divorce, mediation may enable you to design a parenting plan that benefits you as well as your children.  

Mediation Allows Both Parents to Express Ideas and Concerns

There are only two ways that Illinois parenting plans are created: through an agreement between the parents or through the court. Child custody litigation can be stressful, expensive, and can lead parents to be even more resentful of each other. Furthermore, when the court makes a decision about parental responsibilities and parenting time on the parents’ behalf, the parents have much less direct input. Through mediation, you and your spouse will have the opportunity to express your wishes, ideas, and concerns. The mediator is unbiased and will make sure that each spouse has the opportunity to express his or her opinions.

An Experienced Mediator Will Keep Discussions Focused and Productive

Ineffective communication is often one of the largest sources of conflict in a marriage – or a divorce. If you are like many divorcing couples, you probably struggle to discuss divorce issues like child custody or property division without getting off topic or becoming upset. A family law mediator is specially trained in conflict resolution and negotiation. He or she will guide the conversation and help discussions remain focused, on-topic, and productive.

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Naperville family law attorneysAs form of dispute resolution that is available in virtually every type of civil proceeding, mediation typically allows competing parties the opportunity to hammer out an agreement that reasonably meets the needs of everyone involved. This holds true in a large number of arenas, including personal injury concerns, business disputes, and, of course, divorce and family law. Perhaps the biggest advantage to seeking mediation in your divorce or child-related matter your ability to be clearly heard throughout the process, a luxury not necessarily afforded in many court-handled cases.

Strict Legal Guidelines

While the statutes regarding divorce and family law are constantly being updated to allow for more individual consideration, the fact of the matter is that a court can only do so much. A presiding judge is expected to take into account an ever-growing list of circumstantial considerations, which may include those related to each spouse and the children involved. To truly appreciate a family’s situation, a judge would need to review the case for hours and hours, discussing intimate details with each party, and doing so is clearly not a realistic expectation. Thus, court decisions are often based on a very limited understanding of the facts, and only those that each party remembers to include in presented documents.

You Control the Pace

In family law mediation, however, you and your spouse are not only intimately involved in the process, you also dictate the negotiations. A well-trained mediator, of course, is there to facilitate the discussion and to keep you both on a path toward resolution, but will also ensure that you have every opportunity to be heard. Nobody—not even your attorney—understands your situation as well as you do, and mediation provides you the chance to express your specific needs, desires, and concerns regarding the outcome of your issue. Your spouse will be afforded the same opportunities, allowing your resulting agreement to reflect the actual, nuanced circumstances of your situation.

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