Category Collaborative Law

Collaborative Divorce & Mediation Can Solve Pet Custody Conflicts

Pet DivorceCustody issues in divorce are no longer just about children. As shown in a recent web article, hostile and passionate battles are now often fought over placement and/or visitation rights for pets in many divorce cases.

This is another situation where divorce mediation can find a solution that works for everyone, human and non-human alike.

PETS ARE PROPERTY UNDER THE LAW

Under Illinois divorce law, pets are treated as property. As such, a judge will try to fairly “distribute” pet custody based on the normal factors of property ownership such as how each person acquired the property and what they contributed to the marriage.

This can become a sensitive and emotional issue for owners who see their pets as beloved members of the family, not a piece of jewelry or a set of golf clubs.

When deciding where a pet will go post-divorce, some sympathetic judges may try to determine which party is more bonded to the pet and/or who invested more time and money for its care. It’s more likely, however, that the person who wants the pet will be required to give up another asset that’s similar in value to the cost of the pet’s ongoing support.

And all this assumes that a judge will even allow a pet custody issue to be discussed at all.

WHAT COLLABORATION & MEDIATION OFFER

It’s pretty clear there are no guaranteed outcomes when the issue of pet custody is played out in court, which is all the more reason to settle the issue through mediation, collaborative divorce or uncontested divorce procedures.

When parties meet to talk in a neutral setting, they can potentially negotiate and detail a mutually agreed upon pet custody arrangement. Mediation allows time and space for everyone to have frank conversations about who really wants the pet as well as who is prepared and able to care for it financially and physically.

From this can flow a visitation schedule, shared care possibilities or other options based on each party’s needs and desires.

Unless you’ve created a prenuptial agreement that covers how pets will be handled in a divorce, services like mediation offer more reliable, flexible and cost-effective results than working through the courts.

If your divorce scenario involves pet custody, contact me to learn how mediation can help create a workable solution.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin_Birt_37032Illinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise. She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such divorce mediation and family law mediation that work for all parties involved, particularly children.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association.

Collaboration And Mediation Help With Holiday Visitation Issues

Composite image of couple not talking holding two halves of broken heartDivorcing and divorced couples with children have a little extra planning to do for the holiday season; namely, when and where those children will connect with each parent for holiday visitations.

If not thought out well in advance, issues with visitation schedules can increase everyone’s stress levels and make for a not-so-wonderful time of the year.

COLLABORATION AND MEDIATION CAN HELP

Experience has shown that courts are less than pleased with last-minute or emergency petitions regarding holiday visitation schedules, so the issue should be addressed as early as possible if each parent hopes to have their requested time with the children.

When an unexpected or difficult situation arises, mediation and collaborative meetings can often help find a timely solution that works for everyone involved.

A REAL-LIFE EXAMPLE

One of my recent mediation cases shows what can be done when people are willing to come together and talk.

The couple in this case had a change in their customary Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations because extended family had moved out of state. The Mother asked the Father for a change in the already-established Joint Parenting Agreement so the children could visit with the extended family either on Thanksgiving Day or for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Although the Father was not happy about the request, he and his ex-wife agreed to attend mediation to save money on litigation and hopefully solve the issue quickly. During mediation, each parent got to hear the other’s concerns about their children’s future holiday traditions–something that might not have been permitted in a court room.

In the end, both Father and Mother agreed to modify their existing holiday parenting plan which allowed enough time for all family members to adjust to and make arrangements for the upcoming changes in November and December.

Even when a case is not this extreme, collaboration and mediation are very successful in resolving the legal issues around holiday parenting time and can reduce or eliminate the cost and stress of turning to litigation during the holidays.

Contact me for more information about using collaborative meetings and mediation to revolve your holiday visitation issues.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT:

Erin_Birt_37034Illinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise. She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such divorce mediation and family law mediation that work for all parties involved, particularly children.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association.

All Legal Services Are Not The Same

lawyer in the officeFrom online law companies to firms like the Law Firm of Erin N. Birt, PC, there are many ways to get legal services in DuPage County and Illinois as a whole.

However, it can sometimes be difficult to know which option will provide the best results for your particular situation.

Here are some important and helpful criteria to use when deciding on legal services in Illinois.

SERVICE SPECIALIZATION – Make sure you can get exactly what you need. For example, our firm specializes in the areas of Illinois family law and mediation. Specific services include adoption law services, divorce mediation, family law mediation, and collaborative divorce with the goal of providing a supportive and respectful environment where parties can openly discuss their wants, needs, and expectations throughout the legal process.

COMMUNITY OUTREACH – As proud members of the local DuPage County community, we want to give back when we can. One way we do this is by offering free Illinois Divorce Seminars for anyone seeking information about Illinois divorce options. Our firm also offers presentations to local organizations and businesses to help members/employees understand the benefits of mediation or collaborative law practices.

BEST INTEREST REFERRALS – If you come to us for a service that could be more easily (and less expensively) handled by an online legal site, we’ll tell you that upfront. We’ll also be more than happy to work with you if you’d prefer face-to-face service. If what you need could be better handled by a firm with different specializations, we’ll provide you with a referral. Our goal is for you to get the services that best meet your needs.

INTERVENTION SERVICES – Legal proceedings sometimes reveal the need for other assistance such as drug and alcohol counseling or other mental health services.

As an Illinois Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor and attorney, I run The Birt Group, which provides private alcohol and drug counseling as well as court-approved Illinois DUI risk education classes and DUI counseling. At times, this kind of intervention can help resolve legal issues in a way that benefits everyone involved.

Many firms don’t yet have mediation experts on staff and don’t have intervention services readily available as we do.

PERSONAL AND LOCAL CONNECTIONS – Using a smaller firm generally means working with the same attorney over time, someone who will get to know you on a personal as well as professional level and develop solutions that work both legally and emotionally.

You also benefit from a local county attorney who understands that a divorce in Cook County is very different from a divorce in Kane County and that each requires a tailored approach.

In the end, the key to excellent legal service is what people have come to expect from smaller firms: sound expertise with a personal and local touch.

If you’re looking for legal assistance with divorce, mediation, adoption or family law in Illinois, please contact me to learn all that my firm can do for you.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT:

Erin_Birt_37034Illinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise. She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such divorce mediation and family law mediation that work for all parties involved, particularly children.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association.

Divorce Mediation Builds Cohesive, Durable Solutions

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-business-people-meeting-team-casual-looking-having-office-image33412873When couples find it difficult to agree on the legal aspects of their separation or divorce because of ongoing conflict or emotional issues, divorce mediation is a proven way for both parties to come to terms on the issues that matter most to each of them.

How It Works

No two mediation processes are exactly the same, but the goal is to create consensus and develop the skills that help divorced couples make good decisions now and in the future.

A family law mediator or divorce mediator is a neutral third party who is trained to help couples communicate clearly and calmly with each other. The mediator’s role includes:

♦ Creating a setting that is confidential and non-adversarial for everyone involved
♦ Ensuring each party has time to speak without interruptions
♦ Getting clarification from either party when necessary
♦ Asking questions as needed to make sure everyone is on the same page
♦ Offering information on how lawyers or judges would view the issues and presenting alternatives that could work more effectively in court to save time and reduce court costs

It’s important to note that the mediator cannot provide legal advice or legal strategy to the parties involved in mediation. A different attorney will perform that service.

Benefits Of Divorce Mediation

In mediation, the process is controlled by the couple and the mediator, not the courts. This provides the space and time for a couple to develop strong and lasting agreements, and most parties are inclined to abide by a solution they have helped create.

Even if total agreement isn’t reached, divorce mediation narrows down the issues so couples know specifically what to focus on in court or what could potentially be set aside and brought back to mediation in the future.

The mediation process is particularly helpful for couples with children who need to find workable parenting solutions and make ongoing collaborative decisions that are in the best interests of their children.

Depending on how easily everyone can reach consensus, mediation can move very quickly. For example, I recently finished an Illinois divorce mediation where the parties were able to complete their entire settlement process in as little as four sessions.

If you’re struggling with your current separation or divorce process, mediation could be the answer. Contact me for more information on our effective divorce mediation services.


About Erin Birt:

Erin_Birt_3703Illinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise. She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such divorce mediation and family law mediation that work for all parties involved, particularly children.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association.

Collaborative Divorce Now Key For Couples With Children

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-broken-family-loving-parents-eps-image521714For couples with children, one of the more difficult aspects of the divorce process is creating a workable parenting solution where both parents can regularly participate in their children’s lives.

Any contention between the divorcing couple often leaves one parent or the other on the short end of parenting opportunities, which can have a negative effect on everyone in the family.

While the emotional aspect is very important, there is now also a key legal reason for divorcing couples in Illinois to develop a collaborative parenting solution post-divorce.

Lower Standard Of Evidence

Recently, the Illinois Appellate Court established an evidence standard that now makes it easier for a parent to move to another state with a minor child.

This change comes from the case In re Parentage of Rogan M, in which a mother appealed a circuit court’s ruling denying her petition to move from Illinois to California with her minor child due to a change in employment.

The circuit court ruled that a removal petition is a petition to modify the child’s custody, requiring “clear and convincing” evidence that the move is in the best interest of the child.

The appeals court reversed this decision and ruled in favor of the mother, stating that “a removal petition is not a petition to modify custody under section 610 of the Marriage Act.”

It then further established the evidence standard of a request to permanently remove a child from Illinois as the low “preponderance of the evidence” standard and not the high, more stringent, “clear and convincing” evidence standard.

While this ruling benefits a parent who wishes to move to another state with a child, it can be a difficult burden for the parent remaining in Illinois.

Collaboration Can Make A Difference

The lower standard of evidence ruling now makes it easier for one parent to remove a minor child to another state, even over the objections of the other parent.

Not all situations are this drastic, but the ruling is a critical reminder for divorcing couples in Illinois to develop parenting solutions that allow both parents to continue to play an active role in the lives of their children.

As an experienced attorney in Illinois collaborative divorce law and uncontested divorce services, I can help divorcing parents to create the practical and effective solutions that work in the best interests of both the parents and the children–even when they don’t reside in the same state.

Contact me to learn more about these services and how they can help continue parent involvement after divorce.


About Erin Birt:

Erin_Birt_37031Illinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and uncontested divorce expertise. She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such as flat fee uncontested divorce packages that work for all parties involved, particularly children.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association.

Uncontested Divorce That Really Works

Rear view of couple with judge writing at desk in courtAsk many divorced people about their experience of the process, and you’ll likely hear that it was just too much–too much aggravation, too much time, too much money.

Even uncontested divorce, where both parties have reached an agreement before going to court, can be time-consuming, expensive and difficult if the proper documents are not prepared by a qualified divorce attorney. Thankfully, there is a very viable option for divorcing couples in Illinois.

A Kinder, Gentler Divorce

For those going through an uncontested Illinois divorce, our firm offers a Flat Fee Uncontested Illinois Divorce Package that really can get you through the process quickly, easily and less expensively, as one of our recent actual cases proves.

A husband and wife decided that their troubled marriage could not be repaired and struggled with the decision to start the legal process to divorce. They decided to physically separate at a time they believed would be in the best interests of their daughter and thus decided to maintain separate residences within the same town for a period of time.

During their separation, they had the freedom to figure out a non-traditional parenting schedule (i.e. not the traditional every other weekend visits with Dad) that worked well for them. They learned what worked and what didn’t work for them, adjusting the parenting schedule several times to find the right fit.

Once everyone adjusted to the new living arrangements, the parents next tried to figure out how they could minimize the costs of a formal divorce but still protect their family by having a lawyer guide them through the process.

The Mother contacted the Birt Law firm and retained our Flat Fee Uncontested Divorce services, allowing her and the family to be confident that they could afford legal services with no surprising monthly invoices for more than the parties earned at their jobs. It took approximately six weeks to create the initial legal documents, and once the Father had these documents reviewed by an independent attorney, he signed and agreed to them.

The Judge appreciated that the parties had practiced their non-traditional parenting plan for over six months so that they could attest that their parenting plan was successful for their family. The Judge approved their agreement and the case was ultimately finalized within three months. This was a huge success for that family, as parenting/custody cases can sometimes last 18 months or longer.

Client Feedback

After the conclusion of the case, the Mother shared that she greatly appreciated being able to contact our firm via email or telephone anytime with questions, concerns or updates.

She was thankful that we never billed her for each minute she spent communicating with the firm and also grateful that the firm did not reject her family’s parenting plan, as other litigation attorneys did.

Lastly, she valued our suggestions to the family to help the Judge believe that their parenting agreement was in fact in the best interest of their child.

If an uncontested divorce is in your future, contact me to learn the details of our flat fee package and how we can make it work for your specific situation.


About Erin Birt:

Illinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise.

She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such as flat fee uncontested divorce packages that work for all parties involved, particularly children.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association.

A Positive Approach To Divorce

Businesspeople Holding Jigsaw Puzzle

Anyone who has gone through a divorce will agree that it’s one of life’s most challenging experiences, with lots of opportunity for conflict and contention.

But rather than fighting, how would it be to actually talk out the issues and come to a compromise that all parties can accept? Believe it or not, this is possible through a process called Collaborative Divorce.

What Is Collaborative Divorce?

The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals defines Collaborative Practice as “a voluntary dispute resolution process in which parties settle without resort to litigation.”

In the case of divorce, it can be challenging to sit in a room and discuss marital conflicts openly. That’s why this process involves working with a collaborative divorce attorney and/or a collaborative team of professionals who provide the knowledge, support and encouragement to openly discuss and resolve your issues.

How Is It Different From Traditional Divorce Procedures?

Since clients create their own settlement terms rather than letting the court system take control of the outcome, they often notice a positive shift from traditional divorce customs to new options such as:

  • Replacing rigid laws with flexible agreements
  • Moving from controlling individuals to collaborating as a team
  • Letting go of concrete positions to understand different perspectives

Through guided and supported discussion, everyone can begin to acknowledge the highest priorities of the situation and develop shared solutions to handle them in the best possible way.

Does It Work In Real Life?

A recent collaborative client experience shows that great things can happen when everyone is invested in a positive outcome.

During discussions, the wife shared her fear that post-divorce she would have to live in a rental apartment outside of her children’s school district and that she would have to return to full-time work to pay for day care.

Her husband was concerned that he would have to work additional hours to keep his wife in their marital residence which would limit the time he could see his children. If she moved, he also worried about losing his job if he continually left early to drive to his wife’s new home.

Both parties realized they were ultimately concerned about what was best for their children, so they worked with a collaborative team, including a neutral financial professional, and creatively found a way to purchase two new residences close to each other so both could spend time with their children while maintaining a realistic budget.

In the right situations, the collaborative process can be the key to a divorce with less tension and resolutions that work for everyone. Contact me to learn more about this process and how I can help with your specific situation.


About Erin Birt:

Illinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and family law serving clients in many DuPage County cities includingWheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services and specialized collaborative divorce options. She and her team of collaborative professionals develop creative outcomes that work for all parties involved, particularly children.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association.

Erin Birt Published in November Issue of DCBA Brief

smiling girlsThe November issue of the DCBA Brief is out. DuPage County Family Law Attorneys Erin Birt and Elizabeth Chacko co-authored the article “The Changing Role of the Tender Years Doctrine: Gender Bias, Parenthood, and Illinois Law” in this months DCBA Brief.  Click here to read the article on page 26.

Erin and Elizabeth are also the vice-chair and chairman of the DCBA Child Advocacy Committee.  Attorneys are invited to attend the next meeting scheduled for November 8, 2013 at 11:45 AM when 4 child experts will present on the effects of divorce, the stages of change for a child, the helpful resources available for a child, and how to use the available resources to help any child cope with a separation or divorce.

—————————————————————————————————————-

Erin Birt has been a family law attorney for the last 10 years.  Prior to that she worked as a clerk at the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office in both the criminal division and the child support enforcement division.  Erin focuses her practice of law on the delicate issues of family law and strives to reach a private resolution in all matters for the benefit of the parties and their children.  To learn more about her services and practice philosophy, please visit our website www.birtlaw.com or contact us at (630) 891-2478.

Erin Birt is Vice Chair of DCBA’s Child Advocacy Committee

During 2013 – 2014, Erin Birt will serve as the Vice -Chair of the DuPage County Bar Association’s Child Advocacy Committee.  The committee will organize and present on various topics such as child custody evaluations, juvenile criminal matters, juvenile probation matters, contested adoption matters, and child endangerment concerns and preventative measures.

In November 2013, the DCBA Brief will publish and article co-authored by attorneys Elizabeth Chacko and Erin Birt which highlights the changing legal aspects of custody matters.  In November, we will provide a link to the article and a brief summary.

For additional information about children and the law, custody matters, or family law matters, please contact The Law Firm of Erin N. Birt, P.C. for a no obligation consultation.  Ms. Birt has provided family law services to the community since 2001 and concentrates on adoption matters, Illinois divorce, custody and visitation, custody mediation, and Illinois collaborative divorce.  Erin is a past faculty member for the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and currently teaches in the Criminal Justice Masters Program at Aurora University.  Ms. Birt and her firm can be reached at (630) 891-2478 or privately through the firm’s website.

FAQ’s About Pending Illinois Collaborative Divorce Legislation

The pending Illinois Collaborative Divorce legislation, which will create the Uniform Collaborative Divorce Act, has helped to raise the awareness of the divorce option called Collaborative Divorce in Illinois communities. Parties contemplating a divorce are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the Collaborative Divorce Process and the pending legislation in Illinois. Below are highlights from a recent Northwest Herald Article to help explain the essential elements of the pending divorce legislation and the Collaborative Divorce process:

 

*What are the pending bills?

“Illinois Senate Bill 31 and House Bill 1029 would pave the way for the Uniform Collaborative Law Act, which would outline the process of using a model of conflict resolution known as collaborative practice.

Collaborative practice aims to resolve disputes respectfully, out of court, while working with trained professionals. The method would be more cost-effective to an already cash-strapped state court system and clients unable to afford the cost of ongoing litigation.”

*Why is the Uniform Collaborative Law Act important?

“This is a way of describing this complex process and keeping folks out of the courtroom,” said attorney Sandra Crawford, of Lake in the Hills. “[Divorce and separation] are times when people aren’t functioning at their highest. When you are talking with clients already in distress, you need to make sure they understand the alternatives to going to court.”

*How does the process differ from traditional divorce litigation?

DivorceCake300“The process begins with attorneys laying out all options for clients and their particular situations. If collaboration is chosen, they agree not to litigate, and a collaborative team that could include attorneys, health professionals, financial advisers and other counselors helps negotiate resolutions.

A key distinction between collaborative practice and litigation is if the trained lawyers cannot help the client reach a settlement, they have to exclude themselves and a different lawyer is hired.”

“…That makes all the professionals focus on finding a solution instead of going to litigation.” said Crawford.

“In family law, I have some clients who are back in court every Christmas making modifications of a parenting agreement because they didn’t get it right the first time,” Crawford said. “Collaboration isn’t for everyone, but people should have options.”

*Do other states have a Collaborative Divorce Act?

“Hawaii, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, Utah and Washington, D.C., already have passed the Uniform Collaborative Law Act. Three other states, including Illinois, are considering it.”

[The Northwest Herald, Last viewed April 4, 2013]

For additional information about an Illinois Collaborative Divorce, please visit The Law Firm of Erin Birt’s webpage devoted to Collaborative Practices.  A free download of a “Collaborative Divorce Knowledge Kit” is also available. To discuss the benefits of utilizing a Collaborative Divorce, please contact The Law Firm of Erin Birt to request a 1/2 hour consultation.

Erin_Birt_ver2_3978Illinois Collaborative Divorce Attorney, Erin Birt, has been practicing in the area of family law for over 10 years.  She began offering her clients divorce options and alternatives, such as Collaborative Divorce in 2009.  She has helped many couples and families resolve their divorce amicably and without court intervention.  She serves clients in Wheaton, Winfield, St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia, Naperville, Carol Stream, Aurora, Glen Ellyn, Lisle, Lombard, Elmhurst, Oak Park, Chicago, Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, West Chicago, Downers Grove, Westmont, Oak Brook, Boolingbrook, and many other cities and towns located throughout of counties of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, and Will. Please feel free to contact Ms. Birt to discuss her availability in your location.