While different people stress over different aspects of the divorce process, one concern most spouses have in common is that they do not want their divorce to end up in court. Litigating against your spouse is costly and time-consuming, it brings your divorce into the public eye, and it means that a judge (rather than you and your spouse) will decide the final outcome of the process.
Although some divorces will be destined for litigation, there are alternatives available, and many couples – including those that seem to be completely at odds at the beginning of the process – are able to finalize their divorces without going to court. In fact, the vast majority of today’s divorces do not end up in litigation. If you are preparing to go through a divorce in Illinois, it will be helpful to familiarize yourself with the methods that are available for resolving your differences without going to trial, as you will almost certainly use one or more of these methods during your divorce.
3 Methods for Resolving Issues During a Divorce in Illinois
Regardless of the specific issues over which you and your spouse are in disagreement, there are three primary methods for coming to terms during the divorce process. These are (i) negotiation, (ii) mediation, and (iii) collaborative law.
1. Divorce Negotiations
Although the prospect of “negotiating” may sound daunting, in the context of a divorce, negotiating is not a formal or highly-structured process. In fact, negotiating is the least-structured way to finalize the terms of a divorce in Illinois. While you and your spouse will want some structure (i.e. you will want to set meeting dates and deadlines to make sure you keep the process moving forward), negotiating the terms of your divorce allows you to maintain complete control of both the process and the outcome – subject to the limitations of Illinois law.
During your divorce negotiations, you and your spouse should each be represented by your own attorneys. Your respective attorneys will ensure that you understand your rights during the divorce process and help you work toward an amicable resolution. If your discussions get heated, or if you and your spouse seem to be at an impasse, your attorneys will be able to help keep your negotiations on course. Your attorneys can also help ensure that you do not overlook any important issues that could create problems down the road.
Amicably resolving a divorce requires compromise from both spouses. If both spouses understand this and are willing to discuss the terms of their divorce in good faith, then finalizing their divorce through negotiation alone is likely to be a viable option. However, it is also important not to overemphasize compromise in an effort to avoid conflict. If your spouse is being unreasonable, or if you both have legitimate grounds for standing firm in opposing positions, then you may need to consider mediation or collaborative law.
2. Divorce Mediation
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that is commonly used during the divorce process in Illinois. If divorcing spouses are willing to work together but are unable to find common ground, engaging the services of a mediator can help them achieve a mutually-agreeable outcome.
You can think of meditation as a form of assisted negotiation: During divorce mediation, the spouses retain full decision-making authority, but they work with a neutral third party (a “mediator”) whose role is to help them reach an agreement. Divorce mediators are typically attorneys or former judges who have extensive experience in all aspects of the divorce process. By helping both spouses consider new alternatives, make practical decisions, and better understand each other’s perspectives, mediators can often facilitate amicable settlements in circumstances in which spouse was previously unable to come to terms on their own.
3. Collaborative Law Divorce (or “Collaborative Divorce”)
A collaborative law divorce, or simply a collaborative divorce, is a relatively new alternative that takes third-party involvement one step farther. It also involves an additional structure, which can be helpful for some couples. However, similar to mediation (and in contrast to litigation), a key aspect of the collaborative divorce process is that the spouses retain final decision-making authority.
In a collaborative divorce, the first step involves the spouses entering into a written agreement. This agreement states that both spouses will commit to the collaborative process in good faith and that they will not take their divorce to court. If one spouse breaks the agreement and takes their divorce to court anyway, then both spouses will be required to hire new attorneys. Due to the financial cost and time loss involved in getting new attorneys up to speed, this requirement serves as an incentive for both spouses to remain committed to finding an amicable resolution.
After entering into this agreement, the spouses and their respective attorneys will negotiate and use mediation as necessary to resolve all of the issues involved in their divorce. They will also engage the services of accountants, social workers, and other professionals on an as-needed basis to help them fully address all pertinent considerations. While this will be overkill for some couples, for those with substantial assets, unique assets (such as privately-owned businesses), and complex child-related needs, a collaborative law divorce can offer an efficient and effective solution.
Combining Methods to Achieve a Positive Outcome
In many cases, divorcing spouses will agree to the majority of the terms of their divorce, but they will have one or two (or perhaps more) sticking points that require third-party involvement. In this scenario, it is possible to use mediation or collaborative law for a discrete purpose (i.e. working out a parenting time schedule) while resolving other issues through direct negotiation.
Request a Free Consultation with Lake County, IL Divorce Lawyer Deanna J. Bowen
If you have questions about the methods for resolving issues during your divorce without going to court, we encourage you to contact us for a free initial consultation. To speak with Gurnee, IL divorce lawyer Deanna J. Bowen in confidence, please call 847-623-4002 or request an appointment online today.