Tagged as Collaborative Law

A Two-Day Divorce

The traditional divorce process can last years. If you are contemplating divorce and do not want to wait several months or years, a Flat Fee Two Day Divorce plan can assist you in minimizing your time spent with an attorney and in the stressful divorce process.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Choosing a Flat Fee Two Day Divorce plan means that you will receive prioritized expedited divorce services. You will also share in the responsibilities of gathering information for your divorce settlement negotiations. Typically, the process works like this:

  • Your attorney will assess your goals and discuss a range of settlement options with you.
  • You will gather parenting and/or financial information and make copies to share with your attorney and spouse.
  • Your attorney will prioritize your divorce and set aside two days to devote to resolving your divorce.
  • Day 1, you will meet with your attorney to prepare for Day 2.
  • Day 2, you, along with your spouse, your spouse’s attorney, and/or other divorce support professional, will meet to discuss divorce settlement options.

The success of completing your divorce in two days depends on your preparation prior to the group settlement conference. Most clients in the process agree to share document gathering responsibilities and are relieved to minimize time spent on the hurtful and difficult topics of divorce.


WHAT CASES ARE THE BEST FOR THE TWO-DAY PLAN?

Both parties must be committed to a settlement based divorce process. Best examples for the process are cases that have participated in or are ready to take part in divorce counseling, divorce mediation, and/or financial mediation. Many other cases are successful as well when both parties are still amicable, knowledgeable about their marital assets and debts, and are willing to make available all information needed to facilitate settlement discussions.

Cases where the parties have not worked with other divorce professionals in the past and that may have unique complexities involving parenting or asset/debt allocation will need an attorney to devote more time to their case. There are other Flat Fee Divorce Services that can accommodate additional time with an attorney or divorce support professional. It is important to share all of the facts of your divorce with your attorney so that you can receive appropriate legal advice and services. Our firm can assess and discuss our recommendations with you for the legal services you may need.

HOW DO I START?

As a trained divorce mediator and divorce collaborative attorney, I can provide you with an array of divorce settlement based representation that is custom tailored for your situation, including the above described Two Day Divorce Plan. Contact me for more details or to discuss if there is a better-suited divorce option for your legal needs.

 

ABOUT ERIN BIRT:

Illinois Attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over fourteen years of expErin Birterience in divorce law and divorce settlement based practices 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 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. She is a past board member and presenter for the Mediation Council of Illinois.

Can Mediation Work In A High-Conflict Divorce?

conflict resolution strategiesDivorce itself is difficult enough. Add animosity and lack of cooperation into the picture and the process becomes lengthy, expensive, and sometimes emotionally destructive.

From a Huffington Post article by Conflict Resolution Specialist Elizabeth Esrey, here are some facts about high-conflict divorce and some tips to survive the challenges it brings.

SOME DIFFICULT AND DISTURBING FACTS

A high-conflict divorce is the most expensive way to separate from your spouse, mostly because of the on-going litigation that results from one or both parties’ unwillingness to compromise or openly discuss issues. Full-scale divorce litigation averages almost $78,000.

This type of divorce also has a documented history of violence associated with it. “Family courts pit couples against each other – especially in high conflict divorce cases,” notes Esrey, and she cites several examples of people who shot their spouses because of hostile child custody and visitation battles.

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent outright tragedy in the divorce process.

DIVORCE MEDIATION IS A VIABLE OPTION

Even though the conflicts may at first seem insurmountable, a skilled collaborative law attorney or mediator can help even antagonistic parties to work together toward positive outcomes for everyone involved.

It’s almost like hostage negotiations, according to Esrey. The negotiator (mediator) listens actively, treats all parties with respect, and keeps working at the process to produce the best possible results.

“Judges and lawyers typically don’t deal with the emotional aspects of divorce. Mediators help couples navigate the divorce process and reach agreements that are less expensive, more lasting and customized.” And both legal and non-legal issues can be put on the table in mediation.

YOU HAVE A CHOICE

You always have a choice in how you will handle your side of the divorce process despite what is going on around you. Even if your spouse is not willing to participate, having a mediator in your camp shows that you want to bring respect and dignity to the divorce proceedings and you understand how divorce mediation can beat litigation in resolving difficult issues.

No matter what kind of divorce you’re experiencing, I can help you find positive outcomes through mediation. Contact me for more information.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin BirtIllinois 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 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. She is a past board member and presenter for the Mediation Council of Illinois.

Are Limited Scope Services Right For Your Divorce?

Day in CourtIf the cost of an attorney is keeping you from finalizing your Illinois divorce, Limited Scope representation could help you complete the process effectively without spending more than you would like or can afford.

In short, you’re hiring a lawyer to help you represent yourself.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Choosing limited scope representation means that you will handle some the responsibilities of your divorce case while your attorney performs other tasks, and you are only billed for the things your attorney handles. Here are some examples.

  • Your lawyer would prepare certain pieces of evidence and you would present them in court.

  • You gather financial records or other data; your attorney drafts the paperwork for the court.

  • The attorney coaches you on appearing in court by yourself or just advises you on how to handle the simpler aspects of your case.

  • You draft certain documents and your divorce lawyer reviews/edits them.

There are a variety of options available based on your time and budget restrictions and your attorney’s advice for your specific case.

If you choose this type of service, take note. You must be ready to share all the details of your case with the attorney—including things you want to handle yourself as well as any issues you have with organization, negotiation, and public speaking. This avoids any complications arising later in the case that could require more of your attorney’s time and cost you more money.

WHAT CASES ARE BEST FOR THIS PROCESS?

Any case that is time-intensive, not overly technical, and/or has just a few issues that can be divided between you and your attorney is a good match. You’re paying for your lawyer’s time, so it makes sense to have him or her in a situation that uses time most effectively.

Family mediation and collaborative law cases often work well with limited representation for just this reason. You can choose to wait at court rather than paying your attorney to do so. That leaves your budget available for your lawyer to coach you on handling more law-intensive issues or to handle them for you if you’re at all uncomfortable.

WHERE CAN I FIND A LIMITED SCOPE ATTORNEY?

As a trained DuPage County Divorce Attorney, I can provide limited scope representation for your situation. Contact me for more details.

You can also contact your local County Bar Association for local referrals if our office is unable to assist you.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin BirtIllinois 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 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. She is a past board member and presenter for the Mediation Council of Illinois.

How Divorce Affects College Funding

529 college savings plan theme with textbooks and piggy bankDivorce planning for parents with a child in or on route to college includes navigating some potentially difficult issues to ensure the best possible financial aid benefits.

According to a recent article by Andrea Williams on USNews.com, there are three specific areas that can affect the child’s ability to receive adequate financial aid funding.

OWNING A 529 PLAN

If you and your spouse opened a joint 529 college savings plan, you must decide who will take ownership of the plan after the divorce.

“If one parent becomes the sole owner, he or she will be the only person who can make decisions regarding the use of account funds, so it is important that parents come to a mutual agreement,” says Williams. Divorce mediation can be a huge help in reaching a consensus on this issue.

College aid specialists often recommend that the plan be owned by the non-custodial parent because this person’s income and assets do not need to be included on the FAFSA form when requesting financial aid. If the custodial parent owns the 529 plan, that asset will have to be reported.

Only one person can “control” the plan, but experts say that the non-owning parent should be designated as an authorized user who can see the assets but cannot move them around. The non-owning parent should also be named the “successor owner” on the death of the owner parent.

CLAIMING THE CHILD ON TAXES

The parent who claims the child as a dependent on their annual taxes will receive the available tax reduction as well as any college credits given by the IRS that year. It’s important to take a good look at potential financial implications before making this decision.

For example, a parent who makes too high a salary is not eligible for certain IRS credits so it might make more sense for the lower-earning parent to claim the child and be eligible for financial refunds. Check with the IRS for specific salary thresholds.

CUSTODY DECISIONS

The child custody decision can have an effect on how much financial aid a child can receive. Williams states that “it is the custodial parent’s finances that are used to determine financial aid eligibility – unless the noncustodial parent still resides in the same household. Additionally, if the custodial parent remarries, the new spouse’s finances will be considered also.”

Colleges can also ask for additional financial aid forms and these generally do not require the non-custodial parent’s financial information. So if the potential non-custodial parent makes $40,000 per year and the custodial parent makes $250,000, the child has a better chance at financial aid if the lower-earning parent has custody.

These are very tough, complicated decisions that often cannot be made without the help of a separate party such as a family mediator or collaborative law expert.

If you are a divorcing parent with a child in college, contact me to learn how I can help you make the best possible decisions for the child’s college education.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin BirtIllinois 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 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. She is a past board member and presenter for the Mediation Council of Illinois.

More Court Involvement in Illinois Parenting Agreements

Cropped image of male judge signing document at desk against black backgroundDoes the joint parenting agreement from your Illinois divorce need updating? It might, based on several new family and divorce laws taking effect in 2016.

Parents who are already divorced or still in the process of divorce planning should be aware of how these changes will affect them and of the potential for more court involvement in post-divorce parenting arrangements.

RE-DEFINED PARENTING ORDERS

After January 1, 2016, a parenting order will be referred to as an “allocation judgment.” Under the new laws, the Court can allocate parenting plan rulings (formerly called visitation) and can also assign specific parenting and decision-making responsibilities to each party. These include:

  • Education
  • Religion
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Nutritional needs
  • Bedtime/wake-up routines
  • Illness and injury care
  • Hygiene, grooming, dressing
  • Ensuring attendance at activities
  • Transportation
  • Protection of child’s safety

MODIFIED PARENTING PLANS

In addition, any changes or modifications by the Court to a parenting plan or allocation judgment will now be considered and determined by a preponderance of evidence rather than the higher standard of clear and convincing proof.

This means that the Court will be involved in many more parenting issues than before, which may help some parents but may also be an invasion of privacy to others.

MAKING USE OF MEDIATION

Developing a professional relationship with a divorce mediator or attorney can help separated parents maintain control and privacy and prevent over-involvement of the court in the parenting of their children.

My practice offers family mediation and collaborative divorce services by trained professionals. We show divorced parents how to work as a team to reduce or eliminate the Court’s involvement in their parenting duties. Contact me for more information.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin BirtIllinois 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 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. She is a past board member and presenter for the Mediation Council of Illinois.

Your Virtual Illinois Divorce Attorney

Search DivorceOne often-overlooked challenge of divorce planning is time. In addition to regular life activities, divorcing couples must also research information, complete a variety of documents, meet with their attorneys, and attend any number of court proceedings.

Important and necessary as they are, these additional tasks require time away from work which can then affect a person’s job performance in actuality or as perceived by supervisors and co-workers.

A 21ST CENTURY SOLUTION

The age of technology has brought us virtual shopping, virtual employment, and now a virtual option for some divorce services: the Virtual Divorce Attorney. This is a fully-trained and licensed attorney who provides limited scope divorce or separation services that can be done via computer or phone.

I’m proud to announce that I am available as a Virtual Illinois Divorce Attorney offering any Illinois resident these virtual options in addition to my family mediation, in-person divorce, and collaborative law services.

VIRTUAL DIVORCE ATTORNEY BENEFITS

Probably the most important benefit offered by a Virtual Divorce Attorney is cost savings coupled with custom-tailored personal service. Unlike big companies offering virtual legal services and forms, I will work directly with you and help you assess your needs at all times.

Our custom-tailored limited-scope services can help keep your overall divorce costs down. In addition, working virtually allows for fewer days away from work and/or a smaller time commitment outside of work hours as your finalize your Illinois divorce.

SERVICES OFFERED

Among other offerings, a virtual attorney can help ensure that your prepared documents are up to date and comply with current law. All communication can be handled via phone, video conferencencing, or email and all work is submitted to you for review via email, everything at your convenience.

You save time and money and will not miss additional work while going through a difficult time. Contact me to learn how virtual divorce services can help with your divorce or separation.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin BirtIllinois 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 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. She is a past board member and presenter for the Mediation Council of Illinois.

Teaming Legal and Mediation Services In Your Divorce

conflict resolution cycle illustrationTo get through your divorce with the best concessions in place, hiring a lawyer is always a good idea. To reach those concessions through effective communication and negotiation versus anger and conflict, hiring a lawyer such as a Mediation Consulting Attorney will help you determine those best concessions.

In some situations, the court will specifically require divorce mediation assistance, and a new trend to help you meet your goals is retaining a Mediation Consulting Attorney.

The good news is that currently legal divorce services and mediation services do not have to be separate and distinct during the divorce process. Rather, they can work as a team to help all parties get the results they desire at the end of the marriage.

THE ROLE OF A MEDIATION CONSULTING ATTORNEY

Also known as a Limited Scope Attorney, a Divorce Legal Consultant, or a Collaborative Divorce Attorney, this person helps all parties to come to agreement on the various issues of their particular divorce case. This includes facilitating dialogue, identifying any issues between parties, clarifying points of consensus, preparing a spouse for the mediation sessions and/or divorce litigation, and exploring any and all alternatives to reach a settlement everyone approves.

A Mediator must work equally in the best interests of both parties, does not act as an attorney or advocate for either side, does not provide legal counsel, and does not make any decisions on disputes between the divorcing parties. A Divorce Mediator stays impartial to any one party’s needs and neutral around the results of the collaboration efforts. Hiring a Mediation Consulting Attorney, however, provides you with an advocate for your side and a convenient and timely way to obtain legal advice without disrupting or prolonging the mediation process.

THE ROLE OF THE DIVORCE LAWYER

Unlike the Mediation Consulting Attorney, divorce lawyers are obligated to work for the specific party that hires them, advising them and preparing any required legal documents in preparation for litigation. Lawyers are always partial to the needs of their client and will work to create the best possible outcome for that person. A good Mediation Consulting Attorney, however, also knows the value of mediation, particularly in difficult or contentious divorces and will work with the mediation process, not disrupt or terminate it.

HOW THEY WORK TOGETHER

Working as a collaborative team, lawyers and mediators can help divorcing couples to reach effective agreements. In this scenario, parties can agree to meet with the Mediation Consulting Attorney with both of their lawyers present, with one or the other’s lawyer present, or without either of their lawyers present.

If one party wants to bring a lawyer, the other party is notified of this prior to the mediation session to determine whether that lawyer will also participate.

When necessary, the divorcing parties can agree to bring on other collaborative professionals to help with financial issues, property division, child custody and support matters, or any other situations that need expert assistance to reach a solution. I spend my time networking and collaborating with other divorce professionals so that I can assist my client with building the best team for support and knowledge during the divorce process.

I am available to work as a Mediation Consulting Attorney to fill the gap between mediator and divorce litigation and I can help support you through any aspect of your divorce process. My focus is DuPage, Cook, Will, and Kane Counties, including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Chicago, Plainfield, Elgin and others.

Contact me for more information on services for your specific area.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin_Birt_37033-199x300Illinois 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 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. She is a past board member and presenter for the Mediation Council of Illinois.

More Effective Illinois Divorce Options

Negotiate You and I Want Street Signs Negotiation AgreementAnyone dealing with legal issues, divorce in particular, deserves to have all the information necessary to make the best possible decisions. This can be tricky if you’re not a legal professional or can’t afford one to help you, but a new Illinois policy will help change this for the better.

THE ILLINOIS SUPREME COURT SPEAKS

The Illinois Supreme Court recently issued a new policy to help ensure that litigants are informed about the many important and helpful services available to them. These include pro-bono (free) and low-cost legal services, legal aid hotlines, and internet-based resources.

For anyone who is or will be involved in divorce proceedings, two of these services are worth noting. They are:

  • Limited Scope Legal Services
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution Services

While the names are fancy, the important part is that both of these services fall under the larger umbrella of Illinois collaborative divorce law and divorce mediation, which have a proven history of successful divorce resolutions with little or no time spent in court.

CLIENT SUCCESS STORIES

Below are summaries of two Birt Law divorce cases where clients started out in the formal divorce litigation process, with little or no success. When they began working with us using limited scope services including divorce mediation and the collaborative divorce process, they were able to create solutions that satisfied all parties.

  • Case 1 – A young couple with no children initiated their divorce at the courthouse and soon realized that the amount of time spent at the courthouse and with attorneys might be better served with a mediator. They came to me with much anger about the process and hurt emotions. We worked around their schedules to minimize time off from work, which also minimized hostility and anger during the sessions, and soon the parties were able to discuss matters without arguing. They quickly resolved their differences within five mediation sessions.

  • Case 2 – After attending couple’s counseling for several months, a couple with children determined they should divorce. Each consulted with divorce attorneys who informed them of the litigation process and the fees associated with the divorce process. Both parties determined that litigation was not what they had anticipated and sought the help of attorneys who would meet with both of them periodically to discuss and negotiate a parenting plan. They also wanted to work with a financial professional to address the allocation of assets and debts. After explaining limited scope services, our client stated, “I am thankful that I can hire an attorney that listens to what I want and not tell me what has to happen.” The parties reached an agreement to settle within four weeks.

As a DuPage County divorce attorney and trained practitioner in these processes, I know that limited scope and alternative divorce resolution can create results like those outlined above, regardless of where you are in your divorce litigation. Contact me to learn how you can get started.


ABOUT ERIN BIRT

Erin_Birt_37033-199x300Illinois 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 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. She is a past board member and presenter for the Mediation Council of Illinois.

Facts And Benefits Of Collaborative Divorce

Teamwork EssentialsThere’s been little or no fighting. You’re on relatively good terms with each other. You actually even like each other. It’s just that you don’t love each other any longer and divorce is the inevitable outcome. In situations like this–and even ones with more emotion–collaborative divorce planning may be a very good option.

At Birt Law, we offer a Collaborative Divorce Knowledge Kit, prepared by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, which outlines the process and helps you know what to expect. Here are a few excerpts from that kit.

WHAT IS COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE?

  • Collaborative Divorce, also called Collaborative Practice, is a new way for you to resolve disputes respectfully–without going to court. It offers you and your spouse or partner the support, protection, and guidance of your own lawyers, and allows you the benefit of child and financial specialists, divorce coaches, and other professionals.

  • You and your spouse control the process, make the final decisions, and pledge mutual respect and openness.

  • The discussions and negotiations of the process are kept private.

  • It is a flexible divorce solution that allows you to control your outcomes.

CASE STUDIES

These are just a few of the case studies presented in the kit that show the effectiveness of the process.

Case Studies

WHY IT WORKS

Along with providing the support of caring and talented professionals, a collaborative divorce:

  • Encourages mutual respect

  • Emphasizes the needs of children

  • Utilizes a problem-solving versus an adversarial approach

  • Identifies and addresses the interests and concerns of all

  • Prepares participants for their new lives post-divorce

As a trained collaborative law attorney, I can help you determine whether your situation could benefit from Illinois collaborative divorce law services. Contact me for more information.


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 as 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. She is a past board member and presenter for the Mediation Council of Illinois.

Respond to Hurtful Statements?

Hurtful statements can derail and/or prolong mediation and the collaborative process.  It is a common occurrence which must be addressed immediately in order to stay focused on the main goal of resolving a legal issue.  Below are some general principles for how to handle hurtful statements during mediation or a collaborative meeting (or at home).

As a party, when a hurtful statement is directed to you, it is important to pause, breathe, think, and try not to respond immediately. If needed, ask to take a break. Give yourself time to acknowledge how you truly feel about the person’s comments.  Often if you wait a few minutes to respond, you will understand better why the person said the hurtful statement.  

Hurtful statements can be a result of ignorance, confusion, misunderstanding, or lack of information.  If you can determine the possible motivation for the hurtful statement, you can respond appropriately. 

If you chose to respond, the following are general principles:

1. Be direct.  Talk to the person that offended you and not to others.

2. Be specific. Be brief and explain exactly what offended you.

3. Be timely. Do not address this issue days or weeks later. Memories will fade and perceptions will change.

4. Use “I” statements to communicate how the statements affected you.

5. Explicitly state what changes you want the person to make. Ex: Do not make derogatory remarks in front of the children.

6. Acknowledge change.  Express appreciation for the change in behavior, if possible.

Remember, not all hurtful statements need a response. If you determine the statement was made due to ignorance or ill will, it is okay to decline to respond.

A lot of time in mediation and settlement conferences is devoted to addressing hurtful statements. As a practitioner, keeping an open mind and asking additional questions when hurtful statements are made can help clear up misunderstandings and allow the parties to refocus and resume working on resolving the legal issues.