People in a family law case can resolve their problem outside of court using a "collaborative process." This is an alternative to court and allows the two sides to work together to try and come to a solution.
Both sides must have a lawyer. They must also agree to sign a document called a "collaborative process participation agreement."
The collaborative process participation agreement only applies to issues related to:
- Being divorced (or separated)
- Dividing property
- Parental responsibilities
- Maintenance (spousal support)
- Child support
Issues that are under investigation by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) cannot be included.
The collaborative process participation agreement
The collaborative process participation agreement must state the following:
- The parties intend to resolve the matter by participating in a collaborative process;
- The parties agree to fire the lawyers involved if the collaborative process fails;
- A description of the issue;
- Name and address of each lawyer;
- Statement by each lawyer saying who the lawyer represents; and
- Signatures of both parties.
The sides can agree to add more terms to the agreement. A court may not order someone in a dispute to take part in a collaborative process if the party does not want to. The collaborative agreement ends when someone:
- Tells the other party that the agreement has ended,
- Asks the court on the party's own to resolve an issue in the agreement, or
- Fires a lawyer involved in the collaborative process.
The agreement will also end after a lawyer no longer works for someone who is part of the agreement. The lawyer must quickly give notice to the other party. Within 30 days, the person without a lawyer must hire a new lawyer. Then the parties can agree to continue the collaborative process by:
- Signing a document saying the agreement will continue;
- Adding the new laywer's name to the original agreement; and
- Including a statement in the agreement by the new lawyer that says who the lawyer represents.
Using an agreement to stop a proceeding
Both sides involved in a court case can use a collaborative process agreement to ask the court to stop the proceeding. The parties must file a notice of the agreement with the court soon after they sign it. The notice is also an application asking the court to stop the proceeding.
The parties may have to report on how the agreement is going while the proceeding has stopped. The court may ask whether the collaborative process has ended or how long the parties think it will last. The parties can also ask the court to continue the proceeding if the collaborative agreement ends. The court can decide to dismiss a proceeding where the parties are under a collaborative agreement. Before the court does this, it will give the parties notice and a hearing.
Filing an Order of Protection under a collaborative agreement
A collaborative agreement cannot keep someone from filing an Order of Protection against the other party. An Order of Protection will be enforced by the court.
Information to give in a collaborative process
Both sides in a collaborative process can add terms to the agreement that tell what kind of information the parties will provide. Usually, someone must provide information when the other side asks for it or when something changes that may affect the issue.
Updated: March 2018