Karen Covy, a divorce lawyer in Chicago, answers:
Collaborative law is an alternative dispute resolution process through which you, your spouse, and your two attorneys try to settle all of the issues in your divorce by working together rather than fighting each other in court.
You and your spouse hire attorneys who are trained in collaborative law and you work with your attorneys, as well as a team of other collaborative professionals, such as a neutral divorce financial planner, a child specialist, and a divorce coach. Your collaborative team can be as large or as small as you desire. You, your spouse, and your team then work to resolve all of your issues in a conference room before your case is filed rather than litigating in a courtroom afterwards.
If, for any reason, you and your spouse can’t work things out collaboratively and one of you decides that you want to fight in court, then both your attorney, your spouse’s attorney, and any experts you have retained up until that point, must withdraw from your case. You are then free to start all over again and fight as much and as long as you want.
While collaborative law is not usually the least expensive divorce process, it affords you and your spouse much greater privacy, flexibility, and control than traditional litigation. It is perfect for any couple that has been married for a long time, has a complicated financial situation, owns a family business, or wants to keep the details of their case private. The collaborative process also helps you and your spouse to maintain a civilized relationship both during and after your divorce, thereby minimizing the damage done to yourselves and your children.
Karen Covy is a lawyer, mediator, educator and the author of When Happily Ever After Ends: How to Survive Your Divorce Emotionally, Financially, and Legally.