When it comes to choosing an alternative to divorcing in court, both divorce mediation and collaborative divorce have their own unique advantages.
Divorce mediation is a private and confidential method of non-adversarial divorce in which the participants advocate for their own needs and concerns without a lawyer present in the room. The mediator will help the parties reach a consensus through a series of 3-way meetings. Although the negotiations are taking place between the spouses, it is highly recommended that each party has a consulting attorney during the process. The mediator is able to provide the couple with legal information, but a consulting attorney can provide a party with individual legal advice. Additionally, the parties may wish to consult other professionals such as appraisers, financial professionals, accountants, and divorce coaches.
In my experience, mediation is highly effective for a couple if they are:
- each able to advocate well for themselves;
- relatively low conflict;
- still concerned about the other person’s well being; and
- motivated to move forward with the divorce.
The mediator will: help the couple discuss all of the issues that need to be resolved, locate other professionals to help them value or divide assets, and will help bridge whatever gaps exist in order to help them reach an understanding and arrive at an agreement.
When I meet with a client who may not be an appropriate candidate for mediation, I am happy to have the collaborative divorce option to discuss with them. In the collaborative setting, lawyers are present at all meetings — but they are specially trained to work with each other, not as adversaries. As in mediation, it creates a private venue for negotiating and reaching an agreement.
In the collaborative process each client has his or her own collaboratively-trained lawyer who is in the room during negotiations to serve as the client’s advocate. Additionally, there are other professionals who may be part of the collaborative team, such as divorce coaches and financial professionals. Compared to mediation, collaborative law is a more structured process. Meetings are prepared for in advance with an agenda and minutes are taken during the meeting.
Collaborative divorce may cost more than mediation, but it is still considerably less than litigation. It is important to note that trying to save money by using mediation instead of other options may cost more in the end if it’s the wrong process for you.
If you’re still not sure what process if right for you, speak with an experienced family law attorney who has experience in both processes. Contact us now to get started exploring your options.
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