Mediation is a process whereby one neutral works with both parties to help the parties come to agreement on the various issues that need to be agreed on to terminate the marriage or resolve the post-divorce issues. The mediator cannot give legal advice to either party. The role of the mediator is just to provide information to the parties and help the parties find interests that they can agree to and also resolve disparate interests that aren’t necessarily agreed to by the parties. The mediator helps them find common ground to resolve the issues outside of court. The mediator works on the theory that those decisions that the parties make, even though they may not reflect the extremes of perfection for either party, are preferable because the parties have participated in the decision making and own the decisions and therefore those decisions are likely to sit well with the parties for a longer duration than would be orders of the court that are handed down from a third party that neither party… that really knows that much about this particular family.
So many people find that mediation is just the right fit for their family’s circumstances. That would be particularly true where the parties are fairly comparable as far as their expertise and knowhow and motivation. Expertise as to the family financial affairs and know how in the realm of financials and also where the parties are both comparably motivated to end the marriage.
The collaborative divorce process differs from mediation in that each party hires a collaborative attorney and those collaborative attorneys are present when the decisions are made. The attorneys help educate their clients separately but they also educate the parties together in the collaborative process. Then there is a financial neutral who will analyze the data on a very balanced, neutral basis and present all that information to the parties. Likewise, the coach in a collaborative divorce process helps the clients stay focused and on track to resolve all the issues that must be resolved to end the marriage. The coach also can help with the parenting agreements and the provisions made for the children.
A collaborative divorce would be more appropriate for a couple who has a more complex financial scenario or for whatever reasons the parties don’t easily make decisions together or communicate effectively or just need lots of help getting to yes. Then in addition, if there are complex parenting issues where the children are much closer to one parent and don’t want to spend much time with the other parent or there are other circumstances that make the parenting complicated, those cases would be ideal for collaborative divorce as well. So those are the circumstances in which the parties may want the help of a collaborative team to get them through the termination of marriage process. A collaborative divorce would be right for them.