The cost and time associated with the typical divorce process (“litigated divorces”) are extensive. This is unfortunate, because during divorce former spouses almost always want a quick and fair resolution. Also, when children and custody issues are involved, the parents hope to keep the children removed from the process to every extent possible.
Fortunately, different options exist besides traditional litigation that may better meet your needs. Consider the various methods of alternative dispute resolution to ease the difficulties surrounding divorce and child custody.
Understanding ADR Options in Illinois Family Law Cases
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a general legal term that refers to several methods upon which attorneys may call to reach settlements between parties. The three most common forms of ADR include: (1) Four-way Settlement Conference, (2) Mediation, and (3) Collaborative law. It is worthwhile to understand each of these options and weigh their value before proceeding to litigation. Each method of dispute resolution has pros and cons that should be considered before deciding on the use of one particular method. The one constant between the methods, however, is that they may be less time consuming and less expensive than the litigation process.
Four-way Settlement Conference involves the parties attempting to reach agreements outside of the courtroom. These discussions often take place in the presence of the parties’ attorneys. This four party system works if the spouses truly desire to cooperate with one another.
Mediation is another option. In mediation, all of the disputed issues may be discussed and addressed. An impartial third party, called a Mediator, facilitates the discussion between the soon-to-be former spouses in an attempt to empower them to reach an amicable settlement on their own.
Collaborative law is a third option that may be appropriate when the parties are willing to disclose fully all financial information. The collaborative law process seeks to downplay conflict while still proceeding with attorneys. To facilitate this, the soon-to-be former spouses must agree to fully disclose all relevant information, avoid court until a settlement agreement is reached, use one set of attorneys for the settlement process and use another set of attorneys to file the appropriate legal documents with the court to have the Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage entered. Often times, other professionals like divorce planners, financial planners and psychologists are used to help the parties reach a final settlement agreement.
Regardless of the type of Alternative Dispute Resolution method that the parties use, the terms and conditions of the final agreement which is reached between the parties must be reduced to writing in a document called a Marital Settlement Agreement. This document is prepared by an attorney and is presented to the Court for approval. The document is usually incorporated into the Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage and becomes a binding Court order at the time of the divorce.
Of course, every divorce case is somewhat different and ADR processes may not work in every situation. Be sure to check back with the blog in upcoming weeks as we will discuss each of the different alternative dispute resolution options in more detail helping you understand if any single method may be appropriate in your case.
If you or someone you know is facing divorce, child custody, or other family law related issues, consider asking an experienced attorney about the possibility of pursuing alternative dispute resolution as an option. The experienced attorneys at Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C., can provide advice on how to best move forward with your case. Contact their Chicago area law office at (877) 889-4515 to arrange a free initial consultation.