Differences Between Collaborative Divorce and Mediation

Collaborative divorce and mediation are two different methods for establishing the terms of a divorce outside of the traditional courtroom process. While collaborative divorce and mediation are similar in certain respects, there are several key differences, and understanding these differences is an important first step toward deciding which option makes the most sense for your divorce.

How Collaborative Divorce and Mediation are Similar

First, let's focus on the ways in which collaborative divorce and mediation are similar. We touched on one already: When you resolve your divorce through either of these methods, your divorce stays out of court. You (or your attorney) will still need to file your marital settlement agreement with the court in order to dissolve your marriage, but this is a formality that does not involve any sort of adversarial proceeding. As a result, collaborative divorce and mediation both offer:

  • Lower Cost - Both collaborative divorce and mediation tend to be far less expensive than divorce litigation.
  • Less Conflict - Collaborative divorce and mediation are both predicated upon a willingness to work together toward the common goal of ending your marriage.
  • More Flexibility - Unlike litigation, in collaborative divorce and mediation the spouses set their own schedule, and both processes can conclude far quicker than courtroom litigation.
  • Privacy - Keeping your divorce out of court also allows you to protect the privacy of your personal, family and financial information.

Key Differences Between Collaborative Divorce and Mediation

Despite these similarities, it is important not to think of collaborative divorce and mediation as equal alternatives. Some of the key differences include:

1. Involvement of a Neutral Third Party

In mediation, the spouses and their attorneys work with a neutral third-party, called a "mediator." The mediator helps the spouses explore possible solutions and see the issues from each other's points of view, but does not make any decisions for them. This role does not exist in a collaborative divorce.

2. Commitment to the Process

Although it will often be in both spouses' best interests to see the mediation process through, neither spouse is committed to achieving a result through mediation. This is contrasted with collaborative divorce, where the spouses agree up front (and in writing) to stay true to the collaborative method. If one spouse chooses not to continue with mediation, all options are on the table. If one spouse pulls out of a collaborative divorce, both spouses are required to hire new legal representation in order to proceed with litigation.

3. Complexity of the Divorce

Although each situation is unique, the collaborative approach will often be best when the spouses have significant assets to distribute or complex financial issues to resolve in their divorce. During a collaborative divorce, the spouses can choose to hire accountants and other experts to help guide their decision-making. In contrast, mediation often works best when everything is on the table and the spouses simply need to come to terms so that they can end their marriage. But, once again, these are broad generalizations that will not cover every possible scenario.

4. Cost and Duration

Finally, while collaborative divorce and mediation can both provide significant cost and time savings compared to litigation, each has its own cost and time considerations as well. For example, with mediation, the spouses must pay the mediator's fees and work with the mediator's schedule. In a collaborative divorce, the spouses will need to pay professional service fees for any experts they engage. However, the fact that the spouses retain control over the process means that they can also control the costs - and deciding what is necessary requires an assessment of the nature and complexity of the issues involved in the divorce.

Questions about Divorce? Call for a Free Consultation

If you are contemplating a divorce and would like more information about the options you have available, we invite you to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys. To request an appointment at our Cleveland, OH law offices, please call 440-462-1882 or get in touch online today.

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