Mediation and collaborative law: Know the differences

Collaborative law and mediation can both be very helpful during your divorce. Collaborative divorces are different than those that end up in mediation, so it's good to learn about what makes them different.

In a collaborative divorce, couples who have decided to separate or divorce work with their attorneys and possibly other family professionals to come to an agreement regarding the end of the marriage. They will work through child custody arrangements, parenting plans, property division and other sections of the divorce one step at a time until they reach a resolution.

Collaborative divorces work well with couples who still get along but want to separate, because they are willing to work together to come to an agreement. Collaborative processes are less combative than going to trial, and they take the uncertainty out of the divorce. They can be a great choice.

What makes mediation different from collaborative divorce?

Mediation is different from collaborative divorce, because the couple may not get along well and may have serious disputes to address. Mediation usually addresses only the disputes the couple has with their attorneys and a mediator. The results of mediation are usually nonbinding, so it is possible that the solution that both parties agree on will be rejected after the process.

Compared to collaborative divorce, mediation is just a small portion of the divorce process. Collaborative divorce takes couples through the entire divorce process, while mediation only addresses disputes or particular topics that are causing conflicts.

Mediation could be part of a collaborative divorce, if the couple has one or two issues that need to be resolved to move forward. However, keep in mind that those who cannot come to an agreement will likely end up in trial, where the judge will make the final determination on property division, child custody or other conflicts.

Many people aren't sure if they want to go through collaborative law or if they need to go through the traditional court system. If you want to keep your divorce private and avoid uncertain outcomes in court, it is best if you try the collaborative process. However, if you and your spouse cannot get along and don't want to work together at all, then this process is unlikely to work in your favor.

Your attorney will talk to you more about collaborative law and what makes it different from how a traditional divorce takes place.

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