Collaborative Divorce vs. Mediation: Choosing the Right Path
If you’re considering divorce, you might be surprised to learn that there are no court options for divorce that will ensure that the process isn’t unnecessarily expensive and destructive.
You and your spouse may have decided the marriage is no longer working, and if so, there is no need for the dissolution of the marriage to become a war. Or you may have some tough issues, stark disagreements, and complicated financial decisions to make complicated by hard and hurt feelings. Either way, you will have a better result at a lower cost financially and emotionally if you stay out of court.
What Is a Collaborative Divorce?
A collaborative divorce is a different approach to divorce that empowers all parties to work through issues with the help of financial, counselling, and parenting experts, and your collaborative lawyers, to come to an acceptable agreement to end the marriage.
In a collaborative divorce, all parties agree to stay out of the courtroom. Instead, both spouses allow their collaborative team of professionals, including their collaborative lawyers, to assist in financial disclosure and option building so that you can make the best decisions for your family.
Traditional divorce pits one side against the other in a winner and losers mentality. Everyone loses when that happens. In a collaborative divorce, you agree to communicate effectively to work towards your combined goals in ending the marriage. It does not mean that there is no conflict, no bad behavior and no drama—all those things usually accompany divorce! It simply means that both of you are empowered to deal with the emotional and financial turmoil or divorce without harming yourselves, your children or each other. Collaborative divorce is best when you need a fair fight, only this fight is like fencing (civilized and with little actual harm to the combatants), rather than boxing (bloody, painful and with lots of damage, some of it permanent!)
Collaborative divorce works because you agree to communicate openly and constructively and to make full financial disclosure, with the help of a divorce financial expert if you need it. Collaborative divorce works because you are able to process the difficult emotions around the end of the marriage and co-parenting arrangements with the help of a divorce counsellor.
The goal is to find a way to end the marriage and do what’s best for all parties involved, so that everyone is ok after the divorce-not just the person who may have “won” the litigation.
Collaborative divorce is especially effective for couples with children. They work through custody arrangements amicably and learn the essential parenting strategies of divorced parents.
Advantages of a Collaborative Divorce
When you use the collaborative divorce method, you keep your divorce out of the courts. An attorney still represents both sides, so you do not have to work out the details independently, and your attorney is always looking after your interests.
You’re not forced to present your side to a judge, which can be scary and emotional and quite unsatisfying as the rules of evidence and trial will keep the judge from considering a lot of the information you want the judge to consider. The judge also has very little flexibility to create resolutions that fit your family’s needs. The choices are black and white in the courtroom. In collaborative divorce, you can create a nuanced and tailor-made solution for your family.
Divorce is incredibly expensive with litigation and trial. In fact, most divorce lawyers charge by the hour and cannot predict how much your divorce will cost. In essence, they are asking you to give them a blank check and you have no ability to direct how your funds will be spent. And even after spending all that money, the results are almost universally disappointing.
Non-collaborative divorce can take years—the average is about 18 months. Collaborative divorce can move as quickly or slowly as the couple desires.
If you and your spouse have decided to divorce, there may be some hard feelings between you. With a collaborative divorce, you don’t have to communicate with just each other. Your attorneys and the divorce coach are there to help guide the process but also keep it from getting competitive.
Collaborative divorce is the only type of divorce that protects the privacy of your marriage and financial affairs. If you’re in a trial, all your affairs are a matter of public record.
What Is Divorce Mediation?
Divorce mediation is another option for divorce that doesn’t involve traditional combative divorce options.
In mediation, both spouses must agree to hire a divorce mediator to work with them.
Like in a collaborative divorce, the partners must agree to keep their divorce out of the courtroom and instead work through issues with the mediator.
For mediation to be successful, both spouses must be willing to communicate openly and respectfully. They must also be open and forthcoming with the information needed to resolve the divorce. The mediator is there to ensure that the needs of all are heard and to hold a safe space for difficult conversations.
Of course, the goal of mediation, like a collaborative divorce, is a more peaceful and less complicated experience. Both parties work towards a resolution that works for them and their families with the expense or trauma of a courtroom divorce.
Advantages of Divorce Mediation
For some, by the time you get around to filing for divorce, often you’re ready for the marriage and the whole process to be done and over. Mediation is faster and less expensive than a traditional divorce or even a collaborative divorce.
In mediation, the mediator is a completely objective third party to help you build options for resolution and make the best decisions for ending the marriage. Mediation is completely private and remains confidential. What is said in mediation can never be revealed to the judge hearing your case should you not resolve it with mediation.
You might decide to start your divorce process with mediation. You don’t have to stay in the process if it isn’t working for you. You will still have all the other options available to you to divorce.
Many couples feel like mediation is less stressful because you set the time frame and the issues to be discussed and you control the outcome.
Collaborative Divorce Vs. Mediation, Which Is Right for You?
Deciding to proceed with divorce using either the collaborative method or mediation does not mean that you and your spouse are in agreement about anything other than a desire to divorce cost effectively and respectfully. Both can still involve tough issues, vehement disagreement about the right solutions and very negative feelings toward each other. Trust me, all of those things are much better dealt with in a no court setting.
Collaborative divorce tends to be more costly since both parties must hire a collaborative divorce attorney and will take a bit longer. It can also take more time; yet, for complicated or high conflict divorces, the extra help and expertise offered by collaborative financial and counselling professionals can make all the difference.
Mediation may be the best option if you feel like there are fewer or less complicated issues to resolve, if you both feel able to advocate for yourself in the process and are able to be together with the mediator. Mediation tends to be less costly and can move forward more quickly.
Know the Types of Divorce to Choose What’s Right for You
Many roads can lead to divorce, many of them quite unpleasant that can cause lifelong scars and hard feelings. Collaborative divorce and mediation guide you through the process and avoids unnecessary conflict.
If you’re considering divorce, we can help. We offer collaborative divorce and mediation services, depending on which option is right for you. Contact us today to learn more about our process.