Mediation and Collaborative Law differences and similarities explained

What are the first words that come to mind when you think about divorce? Most likely, it’s fighting, arguing, and their close synonyms. Most people whose marriage has crashed are completely fed up with one another and unable to come to terms with each other, thinking that the only solution is going to court.

However, this is not the case!

Few people know this, but when it comes to divorce, separation, and other sensitive family issues mediation and collaborative law are excellent alternatives to litigation. Knowing which process is right for you involves understanding their main features. So, what’s the difference between collaborative law vs. mediation? Read on to find out.

Collaborative Law vs. Mediation: What’s the Difference?

Collaborative law and mediation have several important differences, yet they share a similar approach to tackling disputes as they both are consensual and voluntary ways to resolve matrimonial disputes without going to court.

Litigation, on the other hand, is an altogether different method. With litigation, one side necessarily wins or loses. In mediation and collaborative law, however, the objective is to make both parties win (at least to some extent).

Mediation Process

Mediation is a more flexible approach to family matters characterized by limited input from a lawyer. A typical mediation session will involve the spouses and the mediator. The mediator will guide and moderate the discussion until a solution is reached, but that solution is up to the spouses and nobody else. A mediator won’t even provide advice! Their role is (1) to make sure no crucial point is overlooked, and (2) to maintain a respectful and fair environment.

A mediation session usually lasts between 1 and 3 hours. You may need to complete 4 to 6 sessions, but their number depends primarily on how willing you and your spouse will be to agree with one another.

The initial consultation involves making sure the spouses understand the mediation process. Then, the mediator will keep meeting with the spouses until a solution is reached either in individual or joint sessions.

During the mediation process, you can choose to consult with other third-party professionals: a financial advisor, child psychologist, real estate attorney, etc.

Because there is less involvement with an attorney, mediation tends to be quicker. You also won’t have to pay high costs associated with traditional law.

Collaborative Law Approach

Unlike family law mediation, collaborative law involves attorneys but avoids the traditional court process.

People tend to choose the collaborative law approach because they are more comfortable discussing the case with their spouse while an attorney is present. Each lawyer acts as an advocate of only one party’s interests. However, similarly to mediation, the final decision during the collaborative law approach is also made but the spouses themselves.

If you choose to follow the collaborative law path, you and your attorneys will voluntarily disclose information that could affect the decision-making process. When nothing is hidden back, there is no reason to involve the court.

After disclosing the necessary information, a “no court” agreement is signed by you and your attorney. Your spouse and their lawyer will do the same. This should provide you with peace of mind as you’ll know that your spouse will not change their mind in the middle of the process.

The Benefits of Mediation

Everything You Wanted to Know About Mediation But Were Afraid to Ask

Mediation Law and practice can help you and your spouse see things from each other’s perspectives. Other major benefits of using this approach include:

  • Increased privacy
  • Not going to court
  • Fewer expenses
  • A wider range of solutions
  • Resulting in a clear written agreement
  • A sense of satisfaction
  • Less arguing and fighting
  • Understanding different points of views
  • Quicker settlements

It is important to note that mediation won’t work for those experiencing mental illness, substance abuse, or domestic abuse. If you cannot communicate successfully, the process won’t work as mediators cannot provide legal advice.

Collaborative Law Benefits

Perhaps one of the best benefits of collaborative law is that you can receive legal advice while law mediators cannot provide that for you. Other benefits of this process include:

  • More privacy than a court appearance
  • Not going to court
  • Transparency of information
  • Face to face process
  • Addressing issues with attorneys as they come up
  • Having an attorney on your side

A collaborative law divorce is more costly than hiring a mediator because you’ll acquire additional individuals.

The biggest downfall of collaborative law is that if the method fails, you have to restart with new attorneys. If you and your spouse still cannot come to a settlement through this process, you’ll need a new lawyer for litigation.

Litigated Divorces

If the alternatives don’t seem like the right fit for your divorce, you’ll have to enter the litigation process. There are many steps and regulations involved that differ depending on the state you are in.

Once you hire a new attorney for litigation purposes, they will help you prepare your case for the set court date. Your spouse will do the same.

An attorney will argue your position for you by using documents in a family law court. Outside witnesses or experts may be used to testify on behalf of each party.

Note that, unlike in mediation and collaborative law, the outcome of a litigated divorce will not be up to either you or your spouse. The final call will be made by a family law judge who will decide everything: child custody terms, the division of common marital assets and debts, and alimony terms.

Mediation and Collaborative Law: Final Thoughts

There is a right solution for you when it comes to a divorce or other family matters. If you want to be in charge of the outcome, opt for a mediator or collaborative law attorney to stay out of court.

Another difference between mediation and collaborative law is that, in mediation, the number of participants is reduced to the necessary minimum: the two spouses and the mediator. Since the goal of mediation is arriving at a satisfactory agreement through communication, anything that stymies it (the opinions of other third parties, for instance) is removed. This often allows mediation both (1) being more successful in solving disputes, and (2) saving a lot of emotional and physical energy.

Are you looking for an experienced mediator for the best solution during a divorce? Contact us today!