Collaborative divorce sessions will generally involve having both parties and their attorneys present at the collaborative divorce sessions.
In mediation the attorneys are not present. That’s the first difference from mediation. The mediator meets with the parties and helps the parties get to yes on the various issues that must be resolved to end the marriage; the division of assets and liabilities, the establishment of support if reasonable and appropriate, and the parenting agreements. The mediator typically works with the parties directly and then the parties would also be advised to have counsel who are not present at the mediation sessions, but will provide legal information to the parties outside the mediation process.
In collaborative divorce the collaborative divorce sessions are often attended by both attorneys and in addition, the parties use neutrals. There is a financial neutral to assist with the parties’ understanding of the financial issues and a coach who helps with the parenting issues and also helps the parties to communicate effectively with one another and to stay focused as they work through the necessary decisions to end the marriage.
So the collaborative divorce sessions could well include both attorneys, the coach and the financial neutral as warranted. Sometimes the sessions will not… Sometimes the coach won’t need to be there or the financial neutral won’t need to be there. But at minimum, the attorneys would be there as decisions are made. So that’s the difference between the two. If the circumstances are fairly simple, the marital estate is simple; the parties are similarly situated in terms of their understanding of the family finances and financial matters. And if both parties are equally motivated to roll up their sleeves and tackle the issues that might be a situation in which mediation is preferable. If it’s the facts are more complex, if the financial estate is more complex, or the parties don’t communicate and make decisions effectively together, or there are complex family issues, those circumstances would benefit from a collaborative divorce process.
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