Collaborative Divorce vs. Mediation

Both mediation and collaborative divorce help couples sort through a variety of issues, including child custody, the division of property and debt, retirement benefits, child support and other matters in a way that’s designed to keep both parties focused on solutions. Both processes aim to minimize expenses, streamline red tape and avoid conflict. People often wonder if collaborative divorce just a form of divorce mediation—with a much larger team of paid professionals? The answer is absolutely not. There are some very important distinctions you should understand before you decide either process is right for you. Mediators are typically individuals trained in dispute-resolution strategies (sometimes they are attorneys, but most are not). They do not represent either party and must remain neutral. Because they don’t represent anyone, they can’t give advice (this is especially true if they are not attorneys since giving advice is practicing law) . Like the members of a collaborative divorce team, a mediator is trained to keep the parties focused on coming to agreement. He or she will brainstorm, challenge assumptions, pose alternatives and hopefully craft a memorandum of understanding that the parties—or more likely their attorneys—will file with the courts as an uncontested divorce. Mediation is voluntary. Either party or the mediator can end the discussions at any time. The more able the divorcing spouses are to reach agreements outside of mediation, the faster the process will go. A mediator may challenge a spouse who is trying to delay the process, but ultimately can’t stop them from stalling. By contrast, in a collaborative divorce each party retains an attorney to advise them and to ensure that their needs are not compromised. The attorneys have dispute-resolution skills similar to those of mediators, and their ground rules are similar. The discussions are confidential and nothing said or revealed can be used against either party. If the collaborative divorce fails, the attorneys withdraw and the spouses must start over with new attorneys in the court case. The primary distinction of the collaborative divorce process is that, rather than trying to craft solutions to the many issues that arise during divorce, collaborative divorce attorneys bring in other professionals with specialized expertise in children’s needs, finance and emotional wellness. Because the collaborative divorce approach protects each party’s rights, it can often be easier and more expedient for the spouses to reach agreements. Please contact the Law Offices of Patrick Markey at (312) 223-1763 for more information.