How We Do It

Each of the attorneys at Brigitte Schmidt Bell, P.C. has come to believe that people facing problems have the most relevant perspective to consider when resolving them. We are dedicated to working with you to understand your needs so that we can inform, guide, and advocate for you appropriately to arrive at the best possible resolution under all the relevant circumstances.

We each practice Collaborative Law, mediation, mediation-friendly representation, and settlement-focused litigation, all of which, in most cases, have advantages over a more conflictual litigious approach, which we use only as necessary. The choice of process depends on many factors including the particular problems you need addressed and the personalities of the people involved in decision-making. We work with you to fully explain the advantages and limitations of each process, and together we make a considered decision about what approach will work best for your case.

Collaborative Law

Collaborative Divorce (also called Collaborative Law or Collaborative Process) involves two attorneys and other professionals, as needed, who are specially trained in the Collaborative Process. They sign a “Collaborative Participation Agreement” together with the parties, in which everyone commits to work together to manage the needs and interests of all of the family members, especially the children, while addressing all of the issues that need to be addressed in your divorce.


  • Discussions of your personal matters take place in private, rather than in the courtroom where they become matters of public record.
  • Clients work at their own pace, determining the timing and number of their meetings, and the timing of the final court dissolution procedure to best accommodate their particular circumstances.
  • Professionals from finance, child wellness, and mental health are available to advise you through, not just the legal issues, but the practical, familial, and emotional issues that generally accompany divorce.
  • Instead of formal discovery with its costly and repetitive document exchanges, clients commit to disclose all requested information and documentation voluntarily.
  • In cases where expert analysis is required, a single, collaboratively-trained expert is selected by mutual consent of both sides to provide a neutral analysis saving the cost of duplicating this expense.
  • Because you, as the client, drive the process, you have more control over the costs, which typically run about one-third less than the same case taken in the more traditional way through the court system.


Mediation is a process in which a specially trained facilitator helps parties identify and discuss issues and develop mutually workable solutions to problems, conflicts, and specific legal situations such as divorce, post-decree disputes, parenting, parentage, and elder issues. The mediator structures the meetings and supports the discussion in ways that help the parties explore the issues, create plans to resolve them, anticipate potential future problems, and move forward with their lives. As a neutral facilitator, the mediator does not give legal advice and does not represent either party, but rather helps both parties identify the issues and work to resolve them.


  • The process itself is confidential and the privacy of negotiations is protected by Illinois law.
  • The parties and the mediator generally meet face-to-face with one another, so they avoid the costs and complications of communicating through attorneys.
  • A safe exchange of words and ideas is a requirement for effective mediation and the mediator can work with you individually to help design and implement safeguards you feel are needed to meet the needs of your particular case.
  • Parties determine the issues they want to address and those they don’t, although in divorce mediation, our mediators, who are also family attorneys, provide guidance about what the court requires you address.
  • Parties agree to disclose all relevant information and documentation voluntarily, avoiding unnecessary time and expense of discovery.
  • In cases where expert analysis is required, the parties can agree to use mutually acceptable expert(s) to provide the requested information and avoid duplicating expenses involved.

Mediation-Friendly Lawyering

In the role of “mediation-friendly” attorney, we support you, our client, while you are participating in mediation with another mediator. We provide you with information and advice you need to understand your options and make informed decisions in the mediated context. In this role we often assist you with completing the process of divorce by communicating with attorneys for the other party and by taking the steps required to get from a mediated “memorandum of understanding” to a final judgment of dissolution in the court.


  • Since the underlying process here is still mediation, the process benefits are the same as those listed above.
  • The additional benefit of having advice of counsel while engaging in divorce mediation, in which you are making decisions about a range of complex topics with long-lasting implications, is so apparent that attorney representation is nearly universally required for your participation in the mediation process.

Settlement Focused Litigation

We continue to provide traditional legal representation to help our clients work toward settlement of disputes where mediation or Collaborative Divorce are not available options. It is a fact that a vast majority of cases resolve, in the end, through agreement rather than at trial, so beginning with a goal of settlement rather than adversarial litigation is a more efficient path to what is generally the same result. In such cases we zealously advocate for our client’s interests while looking for opportunities for agreement rather than battle. This process is sometimes called “cooperative” divorce.


  • Settlement by agreement is less injurious to the relationships among the parties, their children, and their extended families than adversarial litigation where parties are generally encouraged to take positions in opposition to one another.
  • Time and cost efficiencies are gained over adversarial litigation because the parties and their lawyers are working, as much as possible, cooperatively toward resolution of differences rather than posturing for battle.