Divorce and what it involves has changed in recent years. The divorce process traditionally took place in a courtroom before a judge, who decided things such as who gets the house or how much alimony would be paid.
In recent years, new ways of divorcing have gained increased popularity. You have probably heard of terms such as divorce mediation or collaborative divorce, and wonder what each involves, how they differ from each other and if either of them would help you resolve your divorce.
While divorce mediation and collaborative divorce both have the same goal, which is to help you and your spouse resolve your divorce issues amicably and without traditional litigation, the approaches are different.
Divorce mediation requires the separating couple to sit down with a mediator. A mediator is not a judge or an attorney, although sometimes attorneys do act as mediators.
If your mediator is an attorney, their role is to remain as a neutral third-party and not advocate for one side or another.
What a mediator does
A mediator acts as a guide, helping you and your spouse to agree on a list of issues that need to be resolved to settle your divorce. Common issues include alimony, child support, debt division, property division and any other topics unique to your situation.
Once you have agreed on your list of issues, you discuss your concerns and desired outcome. The mediator offers options or suggestions for resolution if you disagree on things.
You may need more than one mediation session to fully resolve all your issues. Even though mediation is meant to reduce stress, mediation sessions can still be mentally and emotionally draining.
It is sometimes better to focus on a few issues at a time during each session. However, your overall cost of mediation might increase with a higher number of sessions.
The main difference between divorce mediation and collaborative law is that with collaborative law you and your spouse both have your own attorneys.
Your attorney should be trained in collaborative law. Before you begin the collaborative law process, everyone signs an agreement stating that they agree to use a collaborative law approach to their divorce.
This means that everyone agrees to cooperate and negotiate to come up with their own solutions instead of being aggressive or fighting.
Like mediation, you and your spouse will have a series of meetings with your attorneys and try to resolve your issues. You can bring third parties to the meetings as necessary, such as financial consultants or other professionals.
What if these options don’t work?
Even with everyone making a good faith effort, sometimes using mediation or collaborative law does not result in a resolution to your divorce.
You and your spouse are always free to declare the process over and proceed to traditional litigation. If you used a collaborative law approach, your collaborative attorney cannot represent you in divorce litigation. You will need to hire a new attorney.
Deciding what method is best for your situation is not a choice that should be taken lightly. While mediation and collaborative divorce can potentially save you time and money, there are benefits and drawback to every approach. It can help to talk over your options with a legal professional.