Let’s face it: a marital breakup can take a toll on a family, particularly when the spouses engage in a battle over property rights and child custody. There are alternative methods of dispute resolution available, however, such as mediation and collaborative divorce. Last August, Illinois enacted the Uniform Collaborative Law Act (UCLA) which codifies the process. The law becomes effective on January 1, 2018.
In so doing, Illinois joined 16 other states that formally recognized the collaborative law model. In particular, the UCLA outlines the guidelines for a “Participation Agreement” which is entered into by the parties, their respective attorneys and others involved in the process. In sum, the parties are steered away from traditional litigation toward a series of negotiations focused solely on the goals and interests of the parties and their children. This article is a brief overview of how the process works
First, a collaborative law divorce avoids litigation and calls for a good faith exchange of information without the traditional legal discovery process. By entering into the Participation Agreement, the spouses and both attorneys agree not to pursue the matter in court and negotiate a settlement instead. However, parties cannot conceal assets, make misstatements about material information or otherwise engage in bad faith. If either party does so, the attorneys may withdraw from the case. Moreover, if the parties cannot reach an agreement and require court intervention, each party must find new attorneys.
In short, collaborative law divorce involves the typical considerations of ending a marriage, such as the division of property, spousal maintenance, child custody and child support. To be successful, however, the process hinges on three fundamental principles: (1) avoiding litigation and judicial intervention, (2) a good faith exchange of relevant information, and (3) a mutual promise by the parties to communicate in a way the advances the highest priorities of the divorce.
Additionally, a collaborative divorce is designed to offer the parties an alternative way to handle the legal, economic and emotional fallout of a marital breakup. In this regard, the process relies on an interdisciplinary team approach in which other professionals – psychologists, child specialists, accountants, and other financial experts, work closely with the parties and their attorneys. This collaboration is aimed at helping the parties resolve their differences fairly, honestly, and expediently.
In sum, a collaborative divorce can minimize the tension, acrimony and grief that often comes with a marital breakup, particularly in a contentious divorce. Moreover, this approach can protect the children from the harm associated with parental conflict and restore family unity. Finally, a collaborative divorce is less costly than litigation since it bypasses time spent in court hearings and trials. Regardless of your situation, if you are coping with marital conflict, you are well advised to consult with a trustworthy divorce attorney.
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