The Illinois Supreme Court recently adopted a new rule that allows couples going through a divorce to have lawyers work with the parties on a limited-scope to attempt a settlement while avoiding costly litigation.
Illinois Supreme Court Rule 294 (“Rule 294”) was adopted by the Court on June 8, 2018, and became effective on July 1, 2018. The new Illinois Supreme Court Rule is a result of the new Illinois law allowing for the collaborative process. 750 ILCS 90/1 Collaborative Process Act (“Collaborative Act”) became effective law in Illinois on January 1, 2018.
The Collaborative Act creates a new way for couples that have a dispute in relation to a: marriage, divorce, dissolution, annulment, legal separation, or property distribution. Also, the Collaborative Act can be a useful tool for a dispute regarding a: significant decision making and parenting time of children; maintenance and child support; adoption; parentage; and premarital, marital, and post-marital agreements.
The Collaborative Act was put in place to allow couples that have a legitimate dispute about a family issue, to have a quicker and more cost-effective way to resolve these issues. The Collaborative Act saves couples both time and money and allows for a back-and-forth of communication between the parties to reach a better result without the ruling of a judge. The Illinois legislature passed the Collaborative Act to give couples an alternative route from the court system. The Illinois court system has been viewed as slow to resolve family law issues or in some litigant’s opinions unfair to one of the parties.
Ultimately, if the collaborative process does not get one or both of the parties the desired result, the court can step in and help resolve the underlying issue. The Collaborative Act is a step in a modern direction for Illinois and it is welcomed by couples that do not want their private matters decided in a very public forum.
The Illinois Supreme Court adopted Rule 294 to regulate what happens if the collaborative process breaks-down and a couple need to bring their dispute before the court. Under Rule 294, the lawyers and the law firm that the lawyers work at, who represented the parties during the collaborative process are disqualified from representing the parties in a tribunal. Rule 294, specifically states, “…a lawyer serving or who has served as a collaborative process lawyer must withdraw from the representation if the collaborative process fails.” The disqualification of the lawyer and his or her law firm cannot be waived, and the disqualification cannot be removed by screening the lawyer from the work in the tribunal. The Illinois Supreme Court is trying to really limit and segregate counsel who represents a party to a collaborative process from counsel representing the party before a tribunal if the collaborative process is unsuccessful.
The Collaborative Act is a great alternative for couples that have legitimate family law issues that warrant a speedy resolution and the couple believes that they can come to terms on the issues while saving resources. Rule 294 is in furtherance of the underlying principals in the Collaborative Act and further promotes efficiency.
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