Collaborative Law is a process where attorneys and clients work together, prior to filing a matter in Court, to come to an acceptable resolution of their differences. At the end of the process, the parties' attorneys file the action in Court and walk the properly drafted pleadings and orders to the Judge who will enter the Orders and finalize the matter. The Collaborative Processstarts with understanding legal rights and positions, moves to information gathering and then moves to negotiation with the parties understanding that their goal is not to win but to come to a full and equitable settlement that comports with Illinois law.
How the process works: Each party is represented by an attorney so that their legal rights can be fully explained and the client can fully understand what might happen if the parties were to fully litigate the matter in a contested trial. The parties then work with a group of joint experts who will help the parties ascertain enough information for them to make informed decisions. For example, financial planners may be a useful member of a collaborative team to explain to both parties what assets they have, where they have them, the tax consequences of distributing assets and the best way for both individuals to plan for the future. Another useful member of a collaborative team may be a child counselor who can help the parties ascertain what their children need (as opposed to what their parents want). The parties meet, with their attorneys (separately and together with the other party) and any necessary experts, for a series of conferences until they are able to fully settle all issues of contention. The lawyers then draw up the papers and bring them before the Court.
Collaborative Practice is very well suited for family law where the parties need to understand exactly what they have, where they have it, what is considered "fair and equitable" in a divorce decree and settlement, and how the best interests of the children (if there are any) will be served in a divorce.
A Collaborative Divorce is the solution for those who want to know their rights and full information before making their decisions, but want the end result to be fair and equitable without the stress of adversarial court processes.
Ann Pieper is a certified Collaborative Law practicioner.