Difference between mediation and collaborative divorce
Many couples facing divorce or legal separation want to find the quickest and most cost-effective way to resolve their issues and complete the process. When both parties are willing to work together to reach a mutually beneficial agreement, mediation or collaborative divorce can be efficient viable options.
Continue reading to learn more about the differences and similarities of each process, then schedule a consultation with Howard County divorce lawyer Fred Coover to learn more and decide which option is best for you.
What is mediation?
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution. This means that it can be used to settle a legal dispute without involving the Court.
In mediation, a neutral third-party professional (the mediator) helps the parties reach an agreement on all or some unresolved aspects of their divorce or legal separation, including child custody and parenting time, property division, child support, and alimony.
Role of the mediator
While a mediator is often an attorney or a retired Judge, they do not provide legal advice or act as an advocate for either party when serving in this role. Instead, they work for both parties equally, and their role is to facilitate open communication and help the parties come to a mutually satisfactory resolution.
A large part of the mediator’s duty is to help the parties understand each other’s perspectives and to identify potential areas of agreement. If the parties do not know which issues are in controversy or are unsure how to resolve disputed issues, the mediator can help them develop possible settlements by understanding and relaying each party’s goal to the other.
Process of mediation
The process of mediation largely depends on the parties’ needs and how close (or far) they are from reaching an agreement on each issue. Generally, it involves multiple meetings with both parties and the mediator.
In these meetings, the mediator will guide the conversation by posing questions and helping the parties communicate effectively. The parties may each have their own attorney present at the mediation sessions, or they can consult with their attorney after the session.
When any agreements have been reached, the mediator may formalize them in a writing to be signed by the parties after they have reviewed its terms for accuracy. These agreements can then be incorporated into the final Decree of Divorce.
Advantages of mediation
Mediation can be an effective and efficient way to reach a resolution in many divorce cases, and it has a few advantages over collaborative divorce.
- Less expensive. Mediation is less expensive than litigating the disputed issues, but it can also be cheaper than a collaborative divorce due to fewer involved professionals.
- Faster. Because mediation is aided by a neutral person who isn’t trying to advance one party’s interests over the other, and because the mediator can help identify potential areas of agreement, it is generally a quicker process.
Limitations of mediation
Mediation is not a good option for every couple. For example, it may not be suitable in cases involving domestic violence or where one party has a significant power imbalance over the other. Additionally, mediation is an optional process which means it can only be done if both parties agree to engage in good faith.
What is collaborative divorce?
A collaborative divorce often goes one step further than mediation. While it still does not involve going to Court and is a voluntary process, each party may be represented by their own attorney, and other professionals can be engaged to provide additional support and guidance.
Role of attorneys and other professionals
Unlike a mediator, a collaborative divorce attorney represents only one party, and their goal is to get the best possible outcome for their client while maintaining civility and open lines of communication.
They provide legal advice to their client and negotiate with the other party’s attorney to achieve a mutually satisfactory divorce agreement. When helpful, necessary, or appropriate, the attorneys may include other professionals to provide guidance to the parties in certain areas.
For example, a therapist who specializes in young children dealing with dramatic familial changes might provide guidance on custody arrangements that might be best suited for a child based on their age and relationship with each party. A financial planner might help both parties look at the impact the divorce will have on their finances and the best way to mitigate losses. A forensic accountant might be jointly retained to value a business that needs to be divided as part of the divorce.
Process of collaborative divorce
The collaborative divorce process is often more structured than mediation. It begins with both parties signing an agreement that they will not take their case to Court and that they will work together to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement without resorting to litigation.
Both parties and their attorneys will then exchange information and documents in an organized, transparent, and voluntary manner. They will then conduct a series of solutions-oriented meetings to discuss the issues at hand and negotiate the terms of their divorce agreement. The attorneys will draft the written agreement to be submitted to the Court and issued as part of the final Decree of Divorce.
Advantages of collaborative divorce
The primary advantage of a collaborative divorce over mediation is that each party has their own attorney to represent their interests, offer legal insight, and ensure that they are getting a fair deal. It provides added support from other professionals, and it allows for additional structure and accountability, which can help ensure that both parties are acting in accordance with their promises of cooperation.
Limitations of collaborative divorce
The main limitation of a collaborative divorce is that it can be more expensive than a mediated divorce due to the presence of two attorneys or other professionals. If a couple is unable to reach an agreement and must present their issues to the Court, they will essentially start over with new attorneys.
Which option is right for you?
Both collaborative divorce and mediation can be excellent options for those who are willing to approach their divorce as a team. However, the decision of which route to take depends on a variety of factors, including your financial situation, the complexity of your divorce case, and how agreeable you and your spouse are.
If you’re interested in pursuing either route, contact experienced Howard County divorce lawyer Fred Coover with Coover Law Firm, LLC right away. Mr. Coover can provide expert legal advice and guidance while helping you determine your best path forward. To schedule your consultation with Mr. Coover, call (410) 553-5042.