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Is Collaborative Divorce the Same as a Divorce Settled Out of Court?

The buzz word of a “collaborative divorce” is extremely trendy at the moment. We get a lot of the phone calls at our divorce law firm asking about a collaborative type of divorce and it seems this phrase is used interchangeably with “settling a divorce out of court”.  These methods, however, are not one and the same. Collaborative divorce is one possible method to employ in order to resolve a matter out of court, but it is not the only way to settle a case out of court. Divorce and family law cases have been settled out of court for years, long before it was cool to have a “collaborative” divorce.

Settling a Divorce Out of Court

There are various methods to settle a divorce out of court. In fact, most people are surprised to learn that the majority of divorce cases settle out of court. No one wants to talk about those cases, though, because they aren’t interesting. Everyone always wants to talk about the contested divorce cases with the crazy facts, because those are more dramatic, and by default, folks don’t usually talk about the amicable divorce where everyone agreed, signed and quickly finalized the matter. The method that you utilize with your attorney to settle your family law or divorce case out of court is going to be highly dependent upon your style, your personality, your partner’s personality and the facts of your case.

When One Spouse is Always “Calls the Shots”

For example, take a scenario where the parties do not communicate well. One party is intense and imposing and calls all of the shots, while the other party is meek. The dynamic of the relationship between these spouses is that there is a disparity when they communicate. As always, the meek partner gives way to the dominant and “shot calling” partner regularly in their everyday life. This type of power struggle is going to have to be treated carefully when trying to settle their divorce out of court. The imposing partner is already empowered and is used to the meek partner giving way to whatever they want to do. For this reason, this sort of scenario is not a situation where these two folks should be reviewing a Marital Settlement Agreement at the dinner table and then later telling the attorneys what to change. Sometimes, that approach works, but it would not work here.

This scenario is one where the parties may do better having a four-way settlement conference where the parties sit down with their lawyers and go through the pending issues and try to resolve it; or, where the attorneys meet or conference without the clients present to try and resolve what they can, or, everyone meets, but the parties remain in separate rooms but the attorneys shuttle back and forth. In some scenarios, the attorney and client pairs could exchange proposals through counsel and pass back and forth changes until the case is resolved, or until there is an impasse.

Cooperative Couples that Communicate Well

Then, take the couple where the parties communicate well but have grown apart and agree a divorce is imminent. In this scenario, one party might retain an attorney and work with that attorney to come up with a proposed Marital Settlement Agreement and/or Allocation Judgment. That party may then present the settlement documents to their spouse. That spouse may review it with a lawyer, and then the two parties may sit down at the dinner table and go through the agreements and figure out what needs to be modified. The party who retained an attorney to draft the documents can then go back to their attorney to make the agreed-upon changes. Once the changes are made everyone signs, and the case is resolved that way. But, it takes a certain style of relationship in order for this method to be employed successfully.

Both of the above examples involve settling the divorce case out of court. However, neither of them is labeled as “collaborative”. To settle out of court, you don’t have to find an attorney who is trained in “collaborative divorce”.  However, that option does work best for some couples, and our firm does offer collaborative divorce. However, it is not the only way to settle a divorce out of court.

What is a Collaborative Divorce?

A collaborative divorce is a divorce where the attorneys being utilized are trained to conduct “collaborative divorces”. It usually involves full disclosure by both parties of all financial obligations, assets, and income, and the parties work together with the attorneys to come up with a settlement proposal, which the attorney then drafts and the parties execute. The parties are committed to trying to find solutions to their issues that mutually benefit them, rather than being involved in contentious litigation. That’s really all there is to it! The mystery is finally revealed.

So, do you have to have a “collaborative divorce” to settle your case out of court?

No. You do not have to a collaborative divorce to settle your divorce out of court. It is just one method you can use to settle your divorce without going to court. However, it is not the only method that has to be used to do so. It just so happens that the buzz word of “collaborative divorce” is extremely popular right now.

Seek Advice from the Chicago Divorce Lawyers at Anderson & Boback

Anderson & Boback has attorneys who are trained specifically in collaborative divorce, and we also have experienced litigators and negotiators who are very well versed in settling your case out of court. If you are facing divorce or have questions about the process of divorce in Illinois, we can help. Contact Anderson & Boback to schedule a confidential consultation and learn more about divorce and if the collaborative divorce process is right for your situation.

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