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A couple negotiating divorce with their respective attorneys

Collaborative Divorce – Divorce Outside the Courtroom

Reaching the conclusion to divorce is never easy. However, sometimes a couple can arrive at that decision mutually and amicably. When you anticipate that you and your spouse will be able to reach an agreement on any potential disputes without the desire or need for litigation, collaborative divorce may be a good alternative to the more adversarial, time-consuming, and costly courtroom process. Here is what you need to know about collaborative divorce and if it is right for your situation.

What is collaborative divorce?

Collaborative divorce is an alternative to the traditional process. Both parties must agree to the collaborative divorce process, in which the couple, through attorneys, negotiates all the terms – property, debt, child custody, child/spousal support – outside of the courtroom. A collaborative divorce can involve a team of professionals which may include financial advisors, mediators, child specialists, or others depending on the terms to negotiate.

Spouses and their lawyers sign “no court” agreements, which is incentive to keep negotiating in good faith. If either party withdraws from the negotiations and exits the collaborative divorce process, a new lawyer for each party and professional team must be hired before litigation can begin in court.

How does collaborative divorce differ from traditional divorce?

In the traditional divorce model, spouses exchange demands and are relatively insulated from one another throughout the process. Once the complaint is filed with the circuit court, it becomes public record and out of either party’s control. There is inevitable back-and-forth which can be both time-consuming and costly. Ultimately, the couple relies on the court system and judges to resolve disputes.

Collaborative divorce is driven by agreement of the parties to communicate and negotiate through the process, while still relying on their individual attorneys to provide legal advice and protect personal interests. In any dispute, especially divorce, it is always in everyone’s best interest to resolve disputes through settlement. This is the focus of the collaborative process.

How is collaborative divorce different than mediation?

When couples go to mediation, there is often one impartial mediator for the couple who does not offer either party legal advice. The mediator works with the couple but has no power to decide the case. In collaborative divorce, spouses and their attorneys participate in four-way discussions so interests are openly and transparently discussed and protected until an agreement is reached.

What kind of attorney is best suited to collaborative divorce?

Most traditional divorce attorneys are skilled in litigation, but a good collaborative attorney is an especially skilled negotiator. Collaborative divorce attorneys advocate for your interests while helping to identify mutually beneficial win-win solutions for all parties. These attorneys stress the importance of open communication and respectful engagement throughout the process. An experienced collaborative divorce attorney also can help assemble a collaborative divorce team, connecting with specialists to advise on more complex financial and family matters.

Patricia L. Hall is an associate attorney with WilliamsMcCarthy LLP. She focuses her practice in civil litigation, family law, personal injury, and appellate advocacy. She can be reached at 815-987-8948 or

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