I often get asked this question when I meet with someone for the first time: is a collaborative divorce mediation? The answer is simple: No. A collaborative divorce is not mediation, and below I explain why.
- Mediation is a small part of the litigation process (and sometimes mediation can become part of the collaborative process). Most often, litigants are required to attend mediation before a trial in their litigation case. The Judge often orders the litigants and their attorneys to attend mediation. The litigants don’t have a choice…they must go. In some rare cases in a collaborative divorce, the parties may agree to attend mediation. Attending mediation in a collaborative divorce may be useful if the parties are deadlocked on a particular issue.
- The collaborative divorce is a structured, formal process. Unlike mediation where the parties meet once, in a collaborative divorce there are a series of structured meetings. During these structured meetings an agenda is followed to keep everyone on track and minutes are taken to reflect the discussions and any agreements reached during the meetings. In most collaborative divorces there are roughly 4-5 meetings conducted over a few months. Thus, in a collaborative divorce the parties don’t meet just over one day, but instead they meet multiple times over time.
- The mediator is in control during the mediation, but in the collaborative process the parties are in control. In a collaborative divorce, the parties’ control what issues are discussed, and they control the process. The parties decide when they are ready to settle and when the process terminates. In the mediation process, the mediator controls the process and controls how much time he or she spends with each side discussing the issues and the mediator also controls when the mediation terminates. However, in both mediation and in a collaborative divorce the parties control the outcome. So, there is one thing mediation and collaborative divorce have in common.
- A team of professionals is assembled in a collaborative divorce. In a collaborative divorce a team is assembled which is comprised of attorneys and a neutral financial professional and a neutral mental health professional. These professionals work together as a team to facilitate a resolution of the divorce. In the mediation process, the mediator is the one facilitating a resolution of the divorce.
When comparing mediation to a collaborative divorce, there are many differences and mediation is a small process compared to the collaborative process. Mediation can be used within the collaborative divorce process, but often that is not necessary. Choose a collaborative divorce instead of litigation. Visit our website to learn more about the collaborative divorce process.