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Choosing among 3 different ways to divorce

When it comes time to end a marriage, Illinois couples have choices. They can choose among three primary ways to handle their divorces, and the way they choose could affect their individual futures, especially if they have children. Traditional litigation, collaborative divorce and mediation all provide couples the tools they need to get through the divorce process. The question is, which one will best serve a particular couple.

In traditional litigation, couples allow an Illinois court to make decisions for them when it comes to issues such as property division and child custody. This method often works best when there are numerous points of contention between the parties. In most cases, couples who choose this method of divorce are unable to move past their conflicts. It happens, and even though the parties may not retain control over the outcome, it may still be the best option under the circumstances.

In collaborative divorce, the parties are encouraged to work out a settlement on their own. They and their attorneys agree that, if the process fails, they start over again with new counsel. The parties may bring in any third parties they need -- such as appraisers, financial advisors and counselors -- in order to make the best decisions possible. The parties retain control over the outcome, but a built-in motivational component fosters working together.

In mediation, a neutral third party helps keep the parties on track and facilitates cooperation and communication. As with collaborative divorce, the parties must be willing to work together and compromise in order to retain control over the final agreement. In contrast, if the parties fail to agree on an issue, they do not have to start over; they can simply ask a judge to make the decision.

Regardless of the method of divorce a couple chooses, it is important for an individual to take steps to protect his or her rights. Even in an amicable situation, understanding all of the potential issues and obstacles is a prudent course of action. The fewer missteps made during the divorce process, the better the chances are of securing a satisfactory settlement.

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