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Illinois Senate proposal would codify collaborative law practice

Illinois Senate proposal would codify collaborative law practice

A bill currently being considered by the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee could provide clearer guidance to those interested in a more amicable way to resolve divorce and family disputes. Collaborative law isn't new -- it's already being practiced by trained family law practitioners across the state. If passed, however, the Illinois Uniform Collaborative Law Act would lay out the expectations and obligations of the parties, lawyers and other professionals who take part in the process.

Choosing collaborative law for a divorce or other family law problem often saves people time and money. More importantly, the process provides a fair, structured process that is geared toward reaching agreement, as opposed to courtroom litigation, which is designed for adversaries.

In the collaborative law process, the parties can have their own attorneys, but those attorneys are given a strong incentive to reach an agreement -- they generally can't represent that client in litigation if an agreement can't be reached. The parties also have access to experts, such as accountants, child custody evaluators and psychologists, just as they could if they went to court.

Divorcing couples "have been looking for an alternative to 'drag'em down, knock'em out' litigation that can be prolonged, costly and emotionally draining," points out the president of the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, which supports the bill.

Many people find the collaborative process meets that need. At the same time, Illinois' family courts have been criticized for such inefficiency and backlogs that they can hardly handle all the family law cases brought before them. While the final agreement reached through collaborative law does need to be taken to court for an official decree, that process takes much less time than a full trial.

The Uniform Mediation Act, which sets out expectations for divorce and family law mediation, was passed in Illinois in 2004. Hopefully, the time has come for full recognition of the benefits of collaborative law, as well.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Lake in the Hills Woman Advocates for Bill That Would Help Reduce Divorce's Emotional, Financial Toll," Matt Baron, March 21, 2013


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