We help reasonable people who want reasonable divorces.

What Is Cooperative Divorce Law?

It is not an all-encompassing term for the settlement approach to divorce. Cooperative divorce law is the name of our newest alternative to fighting it out in court. It is not mediation and it is not collaborative law. It is our third minimally invasive way to divorce, and it comes complete with its own settlement process.

Cooperative is similar to collaborative law in that it centers on a respectful negotiation process that takes place at 4-way meetings with the divorcing parties and their lawyers. The process assists in creating and maintaining a non-confrontational negotiation climate where compromise and settlement can take place.

Its purpose is to help the parties minimize the time, pain, cost, and destruction of divorce. Its structure gives them a sensible and effective way of presenting their positions to one another.

If they are unable to reach a settlement, the cooperative model does not prohibit the lawyers from going to court and litigating on their client’s behalf.

The parties sign a Cooperative Divorce Law Participation Agreement in which they commit to:

  • Listen to their spouse’s concerns, and try to keep an open mind
  • Allow their partner to have a different view and not try to change it
  • Accept that their spouse has a right to think the way they do, and try to work around it
  • Refrain from arguing
  • Bite their tongue and not say anything that would aggravate their partner
  • Avoid referring to past behavior or perceived injustices
  • Apply their energy and creativity toward reaching a compromise settlement instead of routinely preparing for a trial that only takes place ten percent of the time
  • Make the problem the problem, instead of making their spouse the problem
  • Voluntarily provide all relevant financial information promptly and without objection.

There is no downside to cooperative divorce law. In the worst-case scenario, it gives the parties a brief opportunity to think more clearly. It also helps them put their best foot forward at a time when this is critical. They will also be able to take comfort in the fact that they tried to mitigate their situation. They will know they did not squander their chances of obtaining a settlement, if perhaps any such chances did exist.

What Are The Benefits Of Cooperative Divorce Law?

  • It makes it possible to communicate with your spouse without starting a war
  • It provides a safe place and format for constructive settlement negotiations
  • It reduces some the stress, frustration, and uncertainty of divorce
  • It formalizes the commitment of the attorneys to focus on negotiation instead of litigation
  • It is easier on the parties and on their children
  • It enables and encourages healthy co-parenting
  • It provides positive guidance in identifying and narrowing the issues
  • It addresses the parties’ motions, feelings, and concerns
  • It gives the parties a forum to air their grievances in a positive, non-destructive manner
  • It encourages and induces practical problem solving
  • It keeps the parties focused on the future, instead of dwelling on the past
  • It allows the parties to keep their finances and personal lives private, and not become a matter of public record
  • It prevents conflict from escalating
  • It avoids having a judge determine who should get (or give) what
  • It makes it possible for the parties to control the length, outcome, and cost of their divorce

What Do The Lawyers Do Differently In Cooperative Divorce?

In addition to the parties’ commitment to help themselves, the lawyers also commit to do their share to keep things sensible and cooperative. The lawyers join in to strengthen the parties’ resolve by:

  • Acknowledging and encouraging each client’s willingness to formalize his or her commitment to cooperate by entering into a Cooperative Divorce Law Participation Agreement;
  • Stressing the significance and potential value to each party of their receiving the other party’s promise to negotiate with respect and civility;
  • Encouraging their clients to problem solve their way through the conflict instead of fighting their way through it;
  • Joining together to subdue the disruptive, angry, or emotional outbursts of the parties;
  • Encouraging their client to take only sensible bargaining positions;
  • Agreeing to cooperate toward narrowing issues;
  • Encouraging their clients to keep an open mind when it comes to compromise;
  • Agreeing, whenever possible, to customize discovery requests to fit the case at hand; and,
  • Agreeing to treat their client’s spouse with respect and in a non-threatening, non-confrontational, non-accusatory, and non-argumentative fashion at all times, including, but not limited to, all instances of interfacing at four-way settlement meetings, depositions, court hearings, and meetings of any kind.

What Happens When A Cooperative Divorce Goes To Court?

Even if a cooperative divorce law case does go to court, the parties are likely to have a less stressful and less costly experience than if they had not tried the cooperative approach. The cooperative spirit, the non-forceful coaching style that the lawyers use to explain divorce law, and the general seasoning of the parties’ reasoning often pay considerable dividends even after litigation begins. Some of these benefits are:

  • The parties are more relaxed and less resentful of having to go to court;
  • The parties enter litigation with a more insightful grasp of the problem and of what to expect;
  • The parties are less likely to be as defensive;
  • The parties acquire a better sense of the need for court intervention;
  • A good portion of the parties’ mutual willingness to cooperate generally carries over into the litigation process;
  • The parties now understand the benefits of meeting the other party half way, and no longer see compromise as ego deflating, or as a surrender;
  • The parties are more understanding and tolerant of the other’s settlement position;
  • There is less anger, friction, and competition between the parties;
  • The parties now see the benefit of attacking the problem, as opposed to attacking one another;
  • The parties are now attuned to the benefits of problem solving, as opposed to fighting; and,
  • The parties, having had a lengthier opportunity to deal with their feelings and to digest what they are now up against, are less prone to be difficult.

Sample Cooperative Divorce Law Participation Agreement

Law Firm of Kulerski and Cornelison Divorce Lawyers

Illinois Cooperative Divorce Law

Agreement to Participate

We, ___________________________ and ___________________________, in an effort to minimize the negative effects and cost of our forthcoming dissolution of marriage, do hereby agree to cooperate with each other and to do our very best to resolve our differences by way of a mutually acceptable, out of court divorce settlement agreement.

To achieve this end, we agree to meet with one another regularly to have informal discussions regarding our individual settlement positions, concerns, and needs. We agree to listen to each other’s message without passing judgment on its merit. Even if we disagree with our partner’s position, we will validate their right to see things differently from the way we do.

If we hire our own lawyers, we agree to direct them to work with us toward reaching a non-contentious resolution. We anticipate doing this in four-way settlement negotiation meetings with both parties and both lawyers in attendance. We agree to cooperate toward making funds available to pay the lawyers.

We will direct our lawyers to keep our case as simple as is ethically permissible, and to avoid taking any action that would add any unnecessary tension or expense to our ordeal.

If we do go to court, we will conduct ourselves as respectfully and as non-confrontationally, as is reasonably possible, and we will direct our attorneys to do the same.

Except as may be otherwise agreed upon by the two of us, and except for any non-privileged statements or information that is independently discoverable outside of our negotiations, anything that we say, and any information that we provide during settlement meetings or associated emails, correspondence, phone conferences, or anything that our lawyers or experts say or prepare, shall be deemed as “settlement negotiations” and shall be afforded the identical protection that the laws of evidence commonly extend to settlement negotiations. As such, all statements, information, and writings shall be excluded from evidence, and shall not be considered in any legal proceeding.

Further, we agree to be mutually barred from calling as witnesses in any such proceeding the following individuals: any of the participating lawyers or any other divorce professionals or other experts that worked with us during the pre-court negotiation process, nor shall we attempt to subpoena them, nor seek the production of their files, notes, memos, or other writings pertaining to our divorce.

We acknowledge that the attorneys assisting us in the cooperative divorce process do so at the sole service of their individual client, and that their professional duties and responsibilities extend to that client only.

We realize that, even though the attorneys may often speak to and encourage us to work toward a compromise that would profit both of us they act independently from one another and represent only the interests of their respective client, and not the interests of both parties. With this in mind, we understand that our individual lawyer is acting in furtherance of our individual interests when and if they give advice that is in opposition to our settlement wishes or as to how our settlement position affects the other party’s concerns and/or their willingness to settle.

We specifically promise and agree to refrain from making any derogatory remarks about each other to our partner’s family members, our children, grandchildren, friends and acquaintances (whether mutual or not), and to all colleagues and neighbors.

We agree to review the Addendum to this Agreement to Participate and to exercise our best effort to act in full compliance with its suggestions in the hopes that we may achieve the appropriate, cooperative behavior that we pledge to use and display during our cooperative divorce.

We acknowledge that this Agreement is not legally binding, and we use it solely to symbolize our good will and mutual commitment to cooperate with one another so that we may resolve our marital differences out of court, while preserving our dignity and privacy.

Dated this ________ day of ________________ , 20___
____________________________                     _____________________________

Addendum To The Participation Agreement

Law Firm of Kulerski and Cornelison Divorce Lawyers

Cooperative Divorce Law

Addendum to Agreement to Participate

We, _______________________ and ______________________, the parties to the attached Cooperative Divorce Law Agreement to Participate dated _____________ , do hereby agree to do our best to conduct ourselves in full compliance with the behavioral suggestions contained in this Addendum.

We agree:

  • To act in good faith during negotiations
  • To maintain and encourage a spirit of good will during negotiations
  • To focus on meeting the financial and emotional needs of our children
  • To address and negotiate all items pertaining to our spouse’s interim and permanent needs or concerns
  • To promote plentiful and healthy parenting time for both parents
  • To maintain the status quo of all assets, account balances, debts, and general financial wherewithal of the family
  • To maintain all existing insurance coverage
  • To refrain from incurring any unnecessary or unreasonable, additional credit card or other debt
  • To focus on problem solving instead of fighting
  • To listen carefully to the other party’s point of view
  • To attempt to learn and understand the other party’s concerns
  • To make room in our mind to house the other party’s point of view
  • To show respect for the other party’s settlement position
  • To refrain from interrupting when the other party is speaking
  • To refrain from making any facial gestures of disapproval
  • To overlook and tolerate harsh remarks or anger outbursts from the other party
  • To share financial and other pertinent information in a timely manner
  • To waive formal discovery whenever appropriate
  • To use joint appraisals and mutually acceptable experts before obtaining individual expert opinions
  • To look at the big picture and use the best interests of the family unit as a template when framing our individual settlement position
  • To make only realistic settlement demands
  • To keep an open mind toward compromise at all times
  • To consider compromising if the other party indicates a similar willingness to compromise
  • To continue communicating even when settlement seems impossible
  • To agree that to reconvene within 24 hours, no matter what, whenever a negotiation sessions ends on a particularly sour note
  • To consider using a mediator if our negotiations deadlock on only one or two issues
  • To continue negotiating until there is clearly no hope left of reaching a settlement

Dated this ________ day of ________________ , 20___

____________________________                     _____________________________

We welcome hearing from you and we invite your questions. There is no obligation. No one will ever know that we spoke or what we discussed. Everything you say is privileged, confidential, and completely classified. We do not maintain a mailing list and will not contact you unless you ask us to.

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Call 630-928-0600 

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Kari and Richard are staunch advocates of the non-court approach to divorce, and are also active and seasoned litigators with over 80 years of combined trial experience in the Illinois divorce courts of Cook and DuPage counties.