Collaborative Law vs. Mediation

Here’s a brief look at Collaborative Law vs. Mediation to help you decide which is best for your situation and circumstances.

A collaborative divorce starts with splitting up, but it doesn’t end there. Instead, the couples stay together as they work out their court settlement agreement and other decisions, including all the terms of child custody, visitation, and support.

Both spouses have to agree on all the decisions and terms regarding the divorce before it can be finalized. For example, if one spouse changes his mind, he has to talk about it with the other person first before going back to court.

Collaborative law is splitting up amicably while not going through a traditional court system. In a collaborative divorce, couples work with their attorneys but also have a neutral collaborative professional to guide them through the process. Couples in this method of ending a marriage can make more effective and efficient decisions while avoiding acrimony and court battles.

Collaborative law has some similarities to mediation. For example, there is often a cost-saving because there’s no need for a court fight, and both sides in this process remain in control of the outcome.

Collaborative law is all about keeping the peace. The collaborative lawyer guides the couple through various options to find one that meets their needs while maintaining their dignity and self-respect. The goal of collaborative law is to keep emotions out of the divorce proceedings, which makes it easier for each person to agree on how their marriage will end.

Collaborative professionals may be lawyers or mental health professionals who have had specific training in this method of an amicable divorce.

There are several similarities between mediation and collaborative law. These two methods also share some notable differences.

Mediation is a non-binding method where the couple hires one or more neutrals to guide them through the divorce process. The mediator holds separate sessions with each spouse. But unlike collaboration, mediation is not without cost because the two sides have to pay for this service.

Mediation can be significantly less expensive than using lawyers for collaborative law.

It can also be significantly less expensive than litigation.

Mediation is generally done in three phases.

Phase one involves the initial meeting between the two spouses with their mediator or mediators. During this phase, each spouse outlines their desired outcome for all aspects of their divorce, including child custody, support, and property division. The mediator listens to what each party wants while encouraging both sides to listen carefully to what the other side has to say during these first two sessions.

Once the spouses have outlined what they want to end their marriage, it’s time for phase two of mediation.

In this second session, each spouse talks about how he or she believes they could alter their desires so that they can reach an agreement on ending their marriage. Finally, the mediator encourages the two sides to discuss how they can come together and find a middle ground where everyone involved in this divorce is satisfied with the outcome.

The final phase of divorce mediation is negotiating a divorce settlement agreement. This is a written contract that spells out the divorce terms, including child custody, child support, alimony, and property division.

The mediator will work with both parties to help them negotiate a fair and equitable settlement agreement that meets the needs of both spouses. Once the agreement is reached, it will be presented to a judge for approval. If approved, it will become part of the court order dissolving the marriage.

Collaborative Law

Collaborative law involves several attorneys instead of just one or two. In addition, collaborative professionals also play a crucial role in guiding couples through this process. Collaborative lawyers help their clients avoid court battles while remaining in control of their divorce. Unlike mediation, there are no separate sessions between spouses during collaborative law proceedings. Instead, both sides work together with a team that includes a law professional and at least one other neutral person, such as a financial advisor or life coach. This collaborative team works with the couple to ensure a peaceful divorce while still protecting their rights and interests.

The main goal of both mediation and collaborative law is for spouses to settle without going through the traditional court system. Both methods also strive to keep emotions out of this process so that it’s less likely either spouse will feel taken advantage of or disrespected during these proceedings.

While there are several similarities between mediation and collaborative law, each method has different goals, procedures, and outcomes. For example, by working together in collaboration, there is less chance one side will agree to something they don’t want just because the other person wants it too much. It’s also unlikely that you’ll be able to get everything you want during collaborative law, whereas you might be able to achieve everything on your wish list in mediation.

It’s also generally easier for the court system to enforce an agreement reached through collaborative law than to enforce a mediated settlement. On the other hand, if one spouse decides not to abide by the terms of their mediated divorce, they’ll need to find another way to resolve the issue since there are no attorneys involved with this method of an amicable divorce. That means there will be no recourse for enforcing any agreements made if one spouse doesn’t follow through with his or her end of the deal. While many divorced couples who use either mediation or collaboration feel they have less exposure to conflict post-divorce, it may take longer for some people who have a difficult time working together to finally come to terms with their divorce outcome.

The outcome of mediation or collaborative law is also a bit different. In mediation, spouses reach a mediated settlement that’s binding but not necessarily legally enforceable. In other words, one party can’t make the other spouse pay if they don’t follow through with the agreement. Mediation settlements are only advantageous in court if one spouse decides to pursue enforcement after the fact and presents evidence of noncompliance. On the other hand, couples who use collaborative law do come away with an enforceable agreement that would stand up in court should either person decide to take legal action against the other for some reason down the line.

Another difference between these two methods is cost. While mediation procedures and rates vary by location, the cost of mediation is often less than what you’d pay for collaborative law services. However, many people opt to hire both a mediator and an attorney when they use this process.

Regardless of which method you prefer, there are pros and cons to consider before deciding if divorce mediation or collaboration is suitable for your situation. If it sounds like one of these methods will work better for you and your spouse than the other, be sure to discuss all your concerns with a knowledgeable attorney in your area before making any decisions about how best to approach this difficult time in your life.

© 2022 Brigitte Schmidt Bell, P.C