In August, Governor Bruce Rauner signed Senate Bill 67, also known as the Collaborative Process Act, into law. The long awaited statute officially codifies a form of alternative dispute resolution for family law cases that has proved effective for thousands of divorcing couples. In fact, Illinois is the 17th state to recognize the Collaborative Law Process Act formally. The new law, which is based on a uniform statute, will go into effect on January 1, 2018. For more information on the collaborative law process, please contact one of our experienced Arlington Heights divorce attorneys today.
What is the Collaborative Process?
The collaborative process is a voluntary dispute resolution process, in which two parties, both of whom are represented by attorneys, sign a collaborative process participation agreement, acknowledging that they will attempt to resolve their legal issues at hand through collaboration. The process is only available for disputes or issues related to family law matters, such as:
- Legal separation;
- Property distribution;
- Division of parenting time and decision making responsibilities;
- Spousal maintenance and child support;
- Adoption; and
- Premarital and post-marital agreements.
Unlike mediation, attorneys involved in the collaborative process are not hired as neutral third parties, but are explicitly retained to advise their clients throughout the process. Furthermore, the parties also agree to disclose and exchange information, which is done instead of formal discovery. The scope of this exchange can be as broad or as limited as the parties desire and is typically defined in the collaborative process agreement. However, like mediations, some of the communications made during these kinds of proceedings are privileged, although the parties can elect to expand or contract the scope of the privilege even further. If, after negotiation, the parties are able to come to an agreement regarding the issues at hand, that agreement must be recorded, signed, and presented to a judge. When this is not possible, the attorneys will be discharged and are not permitted to represent their clients at trial.
The Collaborative Process Act
The new law outlines the specifics of what must be included in a collaborative process participation agreement, which according to the statute, must:
- Be in a record and signed by both parties;
- State the parties’ intention to resolve their issues through the collaborative process;
- State that the parties agree to discharge their lawyers and the law firms where those lawyers are employed if the process fails;
- Describe the nature and scope of the matters at issue;
- Identify the lawyers representing each party; and
- Contain a statement by the lawyers confirming their representation of a party in the process.
The law also details when a collaborative process will be deemed concluded, which is when:
- Resolution of a matter has been reached as evidenced by a signed record;
- Some of the issues were resolved and recorded and the parties agree that the remaining matters will not be resolved in the process; or
- Termination of the process.
Call an Experienced Arlington Heights Divorce Attorney Today
At the SAM LAW OFFICE LLC, we understand how emotionally trying family law matters can be and so dedicate ourselves to finding a solution that is in the best interests of our clients. If you believe that the collaborative law process may be the answer to your problems, please contact our Arlington Heights divorce lawyers today at 847-255-9925.