How A Collaborative Divorce Works
Step 1 - Getting Started

Both of you retain a separate divorce lawyer that is specially trained in collaborative law (collaborative divorce). The four of you work together to come to a fair agreement without court intervention. If this isn't possible and the case ends up having to go into litigation, the attorneys are disqualified from continuing the case and you would each need to retain a new attorney to represent you in court.

Step 2 - Making a Commitment
In collaborative law you both need to sign a "contract", which is actually more of a promise. It states that you will work together respectfully, honestly, and in good faith to resolve issues and reach agreements beneficial to everyone involved. In this, you agree to up-front honest disclosure of all pertinent information and documentation. Believe it or not, this simple piece of paper goes a long way in helping the process go smoothly.

Step 3 - Building the Team
In addition to your attorneys, other collaborative law professionals are commonly added to the team for assistance with emotional, financial, or parenting issues. From financial advisors to coaches to child specialists, these specially trained resources are here to help you keep this process more efficient and effective.

Step 4 - Negotiating a Settlement
A series of private meetings are held to resolve all issues, including parenting decisions and division of marital property, where applicable. During these meetings, everyone strives to remain civil and respectful to one another, setting aside the tendency to blame, and resisting the impulse to to rehash old hurts. And while each attorney is an advocate for his or her client, both ensure that all voices are heard and all needs considered.

Step 5 - Moving Forward
Once you reach an agreement, your attorneys create legally-binding documents and file them with the courts. This holds all parties accountable to the settlement terms. However, one of the benefits of collaborative law is that you have created the agreement yourselves--it wasn't forced on you--so you're both more likely to abide by it.


“We chose the collaborative approach because we wanted a respectful process. We were active participants in the final settlement as opposed to having a judge decide the outcome.”

- Collaborative Law Client    


Sometimes just hearing how others have successfully used the Collaborative Divorce Process can be really helpful. We encourage you to take a look. Please keep in mind that the names have been changed for client privacy.


Client Stories: Story 1 – Resolving Child Custody Issues (Supportive)

Kathy and Tim had been married for nine years. Kathy worked part-time as a teacher’s aide earning about $20,000 per year. Tim worked in the computer industry earning about $120,000 per year. They had twin boys: aged 6. Tim worked long hours in the past and left most of the parenting to Kathy. But as the children grew older, Tim showed more interest in spending time with them… Click here to read complete story


Client Stories: Story 2 – Determining Spousal Financial Support (Considerate)

Kim, 62, and Paul, 61, were married for 40 years. They had three children – all grown and independent. After being married at 22 and 21 respectively, Paul maintained the primary income. Kim stopped working full-time and instead worked at various part-time office jobs while also being the primary caregiver of the children… Click here to read complete story


Client Stories: Story 3 – Dividing Marital Assets (Sensible)

Kevin and Jackie were married for 18 years, both in well-paying jobs, with two teen-aged children. Deciding on divorce, they had agreed to work out a resolution through Collaborative Process instead of going to Court. Custody of the teenagers was not an issue…Click here to read complete story


Client Stories: Story 4 – Collaborating in an Amicable Divorce (Constructive)

When a collaborative divorce has everything working in its favor, it can be an amazingly smooth process. This story truly demonstrates that… Click here to read complete story


Client Stories: Stories 5 – Negotiating a Quick Divorce Agreement (Mutual)

Collaborative or not, divorce negotiation ordinarily takes at least several months – more typically the better part of a year, and not infrequently, more than a year. In this particular scenario, our client asked us, “Is it possible to do this in 10 days?”…Click here to read complete story

“We chose the collaborative approach because we wanted a respectful process. We were active participants in the final settlement as opposed to having a judge decide the outcome.”
Kevin and Jackie were married for 18 years, both in well-paying jobs, with two teen-aged children. Deciding on divorce, they had agreed to work out a resolution through Collaborative Process instead of going to Court. Custody of the teenagers was not an issue…

© Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software