Collaborative Law vs Mediation: What Are the Key Differences?

Ending a marriage is a challenging decision to make, but that’s not where the struggle ends. You will also have to find out how you want to get a divorce. 

What does it matter? You may think.

The way you divorce will determine a lot of things, such as cost and time as well as the level of conflict between you and your former spouse. If you’d like to avoid settling your divorce in court, you may have to choose between collaborative law vs mediation.

This article will provide you with an overview of both forms of divorces and explore the key differences between them. 

Collaborative Law

Collaborative law refers to dispute resolution through the use of lawyers for each party. The goal is to enter into an agreement that sorts out the entire legal divorce process without going to court. The main priority of this type of proceedings is to find mutual ground and to ensure that the issue can be solved by negotiation simply between the parties and their lawyers.

Mediation Process

Mediation involves going through divorce negotiations with the two parties and an independent third party, who becomes the mediator. The mediator’s role is to ensure that the two parties can smooth out their differences and settle on mutually beneficial agreements. 

Differences Between Collaborative Law vs Mediation

While both processes are joined by the idea of making agreements that are mutually accepted so processing in court is not necessary, there are some key differences between mediation vs collaborative law. 

1. Number of Professionals Involved

As previously mentioned, the mediation process usually involves one neutral third party to assist with negotiations. A collaborative divorce includes two different lawyers to advocate for each side and may also have more relevant professionals, such as therapists or financial experts.

2. Neutrality

In the mediation process, the third party needs to remain neutral. This is because they are essentially representing both sides and must do so fairly. 

On the other hand, a collaborative divorce includes lawyers who will become advocates of their clients, pushing forth a single agenda and making sure their party achieves as much of their goals as possible.

3. Time Span

A mediated divorce usually takes around three months to complete. This is the equivalent of a maximum of four sessions with the mediator to settle the case. Once the actual details have been sorted out, the parties will choose a court date to finalize the divorce.

A collaborative divorce takes much longer with the possibility of lasting for more than a year. This is mainly because there are several different professionals involved, and it will involve additional sessions to truly ensure everyone is on the same page. Not to mention, there will be added difficulties around managing schedules to meet. 

4. Whether Outcomes Are Certain

In a mediation process, outcomes are likely to be certain and unchanging because both parties can meet together and talk it out immediately. The mediator will also guide them towards a fixed outcome. 

Just as you may witness in the movies, a collaborative process may not always guarantee unchanging outcomes. The lawyers involved will again be promoting just one agenda, so when a party changes their mind, it will cause a whole spiral of newer defenses and settlements to negotiate.

In worst-case scenarios, the collaborative process may keep going on for an extended period of time without an end in sight. The parties may reach a point where they will have to replace their lawyers, which will mean they will have to start almost from scratch again. 

5. Possibility of Conflict

A mediated process is more likely to result in a peaceful divorce. With a neutral mediator who makes sure both sides see how the other party feels about a certain issue, the likelihood of reaching a mutual understanding is high.

On the other hand, a collaborative divorce is more likely to experience some road bumps. This may not always mean serious conflict—sometimes, the lawyers will need to spend more time to clearly argue an issue before the parties will reach a conclusion—but it does increase the chances that mutual understanding will grow further away. 

In some cases, the collaborative divorce process can get adversarial with both sides firmly sticking to their requirements and not attempting to reach a mutually agreeable position. This highlights the need for professional and experienced divorce attorneys, who are able to fight for your case without escalating conflict.

6. Flexibility and Control

The mediated process provides more control and flexibility for the actual divorcees. They are essentially their own lawyers, supporting their own case but also compromising where they see fit. 

There is unlikely to be a similar level of control for parties in the collaborative process where they have various other supporting professionals also getting involved and driving a certain agenda. The collaborative divorce is likely to be more rigid—any slight change may spur re-negotiations on every minor detail. 

7. Cost

As you can probably tell, the mediation process will cost a lot less. First of all, you will only need to pay for a mediator while the collaborative process involves a whole array of professionals. Furthermore, mediations are likely to end quicker, thus cutting down on the number of hours you’ll need to bill your professionals for. 

Which Divorce Process Suits You?

No two divorces are the same, so choosing between collaborative law vs mediation will depend on your situation. If you firmly believe that a mediation process is sufficient to work out your different needs, it will cost you less and involve less conflict. Sometimes, however, a collaborative process is more suitable because there are significant differences that will require professionals to advocate for you and make sure you don’t need to sacrifice some key desires. 

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