Collaborative Law at a glance: Both yourself and your spouse are represented by Collaborative attorneys at separate firms. This is a team approach to divorce and often involves other trained professionals (financial advisors, child specialists, etc.). You and your spouse agree on the terms of your divorce with the support of your team.
What is it? The Collaborative Process is an out of court process option. It is a bit like mediation but with the added benefit of each party having a Collaborative attorney to represent them. It is most often used in divorce cases but can be adapted for use in other family law cases as well. This process is popular because of the emphasis placed on working together toward a common goal, rather than winning and losing. This mindset can help to preserve relationships. Like mediation, Collaborative Law can be a good option for couples that have maintained some lines of communication.
What does the process look like?
At the beginning of the case, both parties retain a Collaborative attorney and make an agreement to stay out of court. Most commonly, this takes the form of signing a Participation Agreement drafted by one of the Collaborative attorneys. Parties may also bring on other shared professionals to help with the divorce process. You may have a financial specialist, a child specialist, counselors, divorce coaches, etc. Each party, their attorneys, and any other desired professionals work together to achieve a positive outcome for both parties. This group of professionals is referred to as your team. It is common in Collaborative cases to have meetings that include all parties, attorneys, and professionals. These team meetings help each party communicate their goals and keep the case moving in an efficient and effective manner. Even with the cost of attorneys and professionals, the Collaborative Process is often cheaper than litigating through the court system.
Mediation at a glance: Yourself and your spouse meet with a neutral mediator to discuss and agree on the terms of your divorce. You may each have a consulting attorney outside of mediation- though this is not required.
What is it? Mediation is an out of court process option. You and your spouse meet with a neutral, third-party mediator who will help you explore your goals, fears, concerns, and ultimately help you come to a resolution. It is important to remember that mediators must remain completely neutral – they cannot give either party legal advice. They can tell you what you could do, but not what you should do. If you need legal advice during the mediation process, you will need to consult with an outside attorney.
What does the process look like?
You and your spouse will agree on a mediator and begin scheduling mediation sessions at your desired frequency. Your mediator will work with you both to create an agreement that can be filed with the court. Many offices who offer mediation can also draft and file the documents for you. However, you are welcome to seek outside help for those services as well (i.e., having an outside attorney draft the documents, or drafting them on your own). It is recommended, though not required, for each party to consult with an attorney during the mediation process or before signing any final agreements. Mediation outside of a litigious situation (as this blog post describes) is generally party-only, though attorneys may be included in the process as the parties and mediator agree. Like the Collaborative Process, mediation tends to be a faster and cheaper process than litigating through the court system, and it allows you and your spouse to make the final decisions regarding your family rather than a judge.