The Collaborative Law Process

The “War of the Roses” makes for great theater.  But in the real world, the Roses’ process of self- destruction is financially destructive, unnecessarily stressful, and immeasurably damaging to the children, the family, and society as a whole.

The introduction in the Illinois Senate of Senate Bill 31, the Uniform Collaborative Law Act (the “UCLA Act”), will hopefully create a critical mass for the Collaborative Law Process in the State of Illinois.  Two elements are presently interfering with the Collaborative Law Process becoming the preferred process for divorcing couples.  The first is lack of public awareness and understanding of the process.  The second is the divorce bar’s unwillingness to embrace a process that appears to undermine the litigation process as the preferred medium for family dispute resolution.

The Collaborative Law Process is a process whereby divorcing couples can resolve their issues amicably and respectfully without recourse to litigation or positional bargaining.  At the outset, the couple and their attorneys signs a Collaborative Participation Agreement in which they commit to resolve their differences outside the legal process, to participate in good faith in dealings with each other, to disclose all information necessary to finalize an agreement, and to focus on a solution which is in the best interests of their children.

Family Law, especially dissolution of marriage actions, is presently the most common practical application for the Collaborative Law Process.  However, inroads are being made to use the elements of the Collaborative Law Process in other areas of the law.  Professionals in other substantive law areas will be well served by studying the Collaborative Law Process and looking for applications to their own practice areas.

The Collaborative Law Process does not replace the litigation model.  It is an alternative, but, without a doubt, a desirable alternative for couples who want privacy and are interested in avoiding the expense, stress, and destructiveness of processing their divorce through the court system.  The cornerstone of the Collaborative Law Process is trust: the trust that the divorcing spouses will treat each other respectfully during the process and disclose ALL information necessary for a fair and reasonable outcome, and the trust among the professionals in the Collaborative Law Process to focus not on winning and losing for one’s client, but on resolving differences by exploring needs and interests of the parties and their children.

A couple’s interest in using the Collaborative Law Process is typically a good first step to determining whether the case is suitable for the process.  Even in cases where there are significant assets, complicated financial structures, financial distress, a pattern of emotional dysfunction in the family, or a relationship outside the marriage, the Collaborative Law Process can work very effectively.  However, in those cases where there is hiding of assets, ongoing physical abuse, child abuse, child abduction, child endangerment, or ongoing criminal activity, the Collaborative Law Process is not an option.  A well trained Collaborative Law attorney has the skills to determine the suitability of the case for the Collaborative Law Process.

 Starting the Collaborative Law Process

The first step in starting a collaborative case should be to contact an attorney with experience and training in the Collaborative Law Process to determine whether the case is suitable for the Collaborative Law Process.

Please contact our office to schedule a consultation with an experienced attorney who is extensively trained in the Collaborative Law Process, and who has over ten years’ experience of working in the Collaborative  Process.

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