People often ask me how to choose between Divorce Mediation and Collaborative Divorce. I congratulate them on having decided to divorce amicably. Whichever road you choose, by not litigating your divorce, you are more likely to keep your sanity, preserve your assets, and protect your children.
Both Divorce Mediation and Collaborative Divorce Save Time, Money, and Aggravation
If you use either Divorce Mediation or Collaborative Divorce you will save time and money. By not using the courts to resolve your differences, you will avoid the expense of court appearances. More importantly, both methods allow you to negotiate the terms of your divorce reasonably, thoughtfully, and confidentially. Both Divorce Mediation and Collaborative Divorce spare you and your family the unnecessary turmoil that a litigated divorce will create.
What is Divorce Mediation?
In Divorce Mediation, you will work with a neutral mediator to resolve all of your divorce issues. The mediator will help you gather the information you need to get divorced. You and your spouse will review all of the information together with your mediator and make all of the necessary decisions for your divorce. This is done privately in the mediator’s office and your discussions are confidential. Throughout the process, the mediator will make sure that you and your spouse are each heard, and that your needs and interests are explored and understood.
A mediator who is an attorney will also be able to prepare and file the paperwork required by the court to initiate and resolve your divorce. In addition, an attorney mediator will draft the document that incorporates all of your agreements reached in the divorce mediation sessions.
What is Collaborative Divorce?
In Collaborative Divorce, you and your spouse are each represented by a Collaborative Divorce attorney. You will each meet individually with your Collaborative Divorce attorney, and also have 4 way meetings, to make all the necessary decisions. Collaborative Divorce attorneys are trained in Collaborative Divorce and approach each case in a cooperative manner with the goal of settlement. Your Collaborative Divorce attorney will represent your interests, while also considering the interests of your spouse. As in mediation, the negotiations are respectful and take a holistic approach to the needs of the family.
Most importantly, in Collaborative Divorce, you, your spouse, and both attorneys all sign a Collaborative Divorce agreement. The Collaborative Divorce agreement states that, as in mediation, each spouse will voluntarily provide all required financial information and negotiate in good faith. The agreement also provides that neither lawyer will use any adversarial techniques or file any motions with the court. If a spouse or lawyer violates the Collaborative Divorce agreement, the lawyers are required to withdraw from the case and the parties must start the divorce process over with new lawyers. This creates a strong incentive for everyone to settle the case amicably.
Additional Collaborative Divorce Team Members
The Collaborative Divorce lawyers and the spouses will discuss the benefit of incorporating divorce financial planners and mental health professionals into the Collaborative Divorce process. These additional team members can often save time and money by expediting the process. One divorce financial planner can perform the financial analysis that two lawyers would otherwise do. A mental health professional acting as a divorce coach can enhance communication and help you and your spouse manage emotions that might interfere with rational decision making.
So How do you Choose between Divorce Mediation and Collaborative Divorce?
The decision is a very individual one based on your personality, the history of your relationship, and the facts of your case. Here are some factors to consider in choosing between Divorce Mediation and Collaborative Divorce:
- Mediation is the least expensive choice. One attorney acting as a mediator is going to be less expensive than two attorneys.
- Mediation is the quickest and most flexible option. The need to coordinate the schedules of two attorneys can often slow the process down.
- Mediation gives the parties the greatest degree of control over the process. It focuses more on the needs and desires of the parties and less on what the outcome would be in court.
- Collaborative Divorce provides a greater degree of safety if there is a perceived imbalance of power between the parties. For a person who is intimidated by his or her spouse, mediation might not be the best option.
- Collaborative Divorce offers the support of mental health professionals when parties have emotional or communication challenges.
- Collaborative Divorce might be a better option when one party has all of the information about the family finances or is more financially savvy. While a good mediator can help level the playing field, some parties will only be comfortable with a good collaborative attorney as a partner in the process.
The choice between Divorce Mediation and Collaborative Divorce is a very personal one. Follow your instincts. If you select the right professionals, either process will serve you well.