Collaborative Divorce vs. Mediation

The decision to end your marriage is never an easy one. If you’ve resolved to proceed with a divorce, there are other important decisions which are yet to be made, including how you will go about getting the divorce. If after weighing options like a divorce or annulment you’ve decided to pursue a divorce, you may now be considering either a collaborative divorce or divorce mediation. There are important differences between these two methods to be aware of before moving forward. Conniff Law Offices compares collaborative divorce vs. mediation in greater depth below to help you determine which course of action is better suited to your situation.

Divorce Mediation Overview

Divorce mediation takes a cooperative approach. A hired mediator acts as a neutral third party for the divorcing couple, helping to resolve any issues throughout the process. The mediator does not make decisions for the couple, but rather helps them come to an agreeable solution. Divorce mediators do not have to be lawyers, though one or both spouses may hire a lawyer if they wish. We recommend having an attorney before the mediation process begins in order to understand your legal rights and your best options.

During a divorce mediation, the mediator will:

  • Assist the couple in establishing the issues that require attention in the divorce so each person may make their necessary decisions
  • Act as a neutral negotiator when sorting out issues the couple is in disagreement over
  • Propose options to guide the couple toward an agreement that is mutually favored and tailored to their unique circumstances, touching on important points like a parenting plan, alimony or spousal support, child support, division of marital property and debts, etc.
  • Drawing up some of the required paperwork, such as the Memorandum of Understanding (the document that summarizes the articles of the couple’s agreement)

In a successful divorce mediation, the couple has the advantage of a guaranteed outcome since both spouses were able to give their direct input on matters of disagreement. Divorce mediation is also known to be an affordable and less time-consuming process.

Collaborative Divorce Overview

Collaborative divorce combines aspects of divorce mediation with a “conventional” divorce. Unlike divorce mediation, it is a process that does require attorneys, as well as other third party professionals, including a child specialist, finance professional, and divorce coach.

Here is an overview of how a collaborative divorce works:

  • Each spouse hires their own divorce lawyer who is trained in the collaborative law process. As would happen in a conventional divorce, each spouse’s attorney is working to secure the best outcome for their respective client.
  • Both individuals and their attorneys sign a contract stating that they are committed to cooperate with each other rather than quarreling during divorce negotiations. This is known as a participation agreement.
  • Several meetings will take place during a collaborative divorce, during which the spouses and their attorneys will meet with third party professionals as they are needed. These outside professionals could include a divorce coach, child specialist, finance professional, therapist, mediator, and more.

If a mutual agreement cannot be reached between the couple, their divorce lawyers will be barred from representing them in the litigation process. The couple will need to proceed instead with divorce litigation in a family law court, with each individual starting over with a new attorney. Divorce litigation poses the risk of uncertainty, as the parties involved do not know how the judge will rule on their various divorce issues.

Key Differences Between Collaborative Divorce vs. Mediation

In addition to the differences in the proceedings of divorce mediation and collaborative divorce, there are a couple other key areas of contrast to know about before moving forward.

How long will the entire process take?

  • The divorce mediation process may require one to four sessions spanning two to three months. The couple determines the pace at which they would like to proceed. Once an agreement is made, the time it takes to finalize everything depends upon how long it takes to file the divorce, draft the necessary documents, and finalize the proceedings in court.
  • Collaborative divorce typically takes 4 to 14 months to complete. Any issues that arise can usually be settled in four to six group sessions. The time it takes to complete the sessions depends not only upon the availability of each spouse and their lawyers, but also on that of the necessary outside professionals. Like with mediation, the time needed to finalize everything depends on the time it takes to file the divorce and go through court proceedings.

Which Method Is Right for You?

When it comes time to decide between collaborative divorce vs. mediation, only you can say which method is right for your situation. Couples who want what’s best for their children or who would like to maintain a peaceful process may prefer divorce mediation. If mediation isn’t right for you but you would still prefer to avoid litigation if possible, or if you would feel better having an attorney who will only represent you, a collaborative divorce may be the favorable choice.

Consult the Family Law Professionals at Conniff Law Offices

If you are seeking an experienced divorce lawyer to represent you in a collaborative divorce or would like to hire an attorney for your divorce mediation, consult with the family law professionals at Conniff Law Offices. Our legal team is dedicated to helping you reach the best outcome possible, and will be there for you during this often difficult time. Contact us today to schedule a consultation at our Chicago or Oak Park office.

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