Collaborative Law and Mediation – Alternatives to Litigation

What is Collaborative Law?

Collaborative law is a specialized procedure used in divorce cases where the parties prefer to reach an agreement out of court using professional guidance and support. The process moves parties toward an amicable agreement, using reflective listening, legal counsel and emotional support to help the couple reach resolution. Collaborative law is typically faster and more cost-effective than a traditional, litigated divorce. Besides cost, the collaborative law process helps create an improved working relationship between the parties and ensure a healthy co-parenting relationship in the future.

Although the collaborative process can follow several models, it always involves:

  • Consent of both parties to full participation in the collaborative law process, as well as honest communication and full disclosure of all relevant facts.
  • A respectful environment where each party works with a specially trained lawyer to reach agreement on divorce, property division, and child support settlement.
  • Face-to-face communication among the two parties, both attorneys and experts brought into the process.
  • Professional assistance and support is available when appropriate. This might include financial specialists during property settlement talks or child development and child custody specialists during child custody decision-making.

Is Collaborative Law the Best Option?

Collaborative law helps couples reach mutually satisfactory settlement agreements in less time, at less cost, and with more control over the process and the outcome. Couples choose the collaborative law process because:

  • They believe they can work together to reach an agreement, although they may need the support of a lawyer
  • They want a faster, less costly process
  • They want more control over the process

What if it doesn’t work?

 

The collaborative law process does not work for everyone. Collaboration requires considerable effort and cooperation on the part of the divorcing couple. However, even if couples don’t reach a complete agreement, any agreement that is reached can be used as a basis for the divorce agreement you will later reach in court. The following signs likely indicate that collaborative law may NOT be the right option for you:

  • Your spouse does not want to participate
  • Your spouse was verbally or physically abusive in your marital relationship
  • You believe your spouse is dishonest, untrustworthy, or is hiding assets
  • Your spouse wants to pick a fight more than he or she wants to arrive at an agreement

Is Mediation An Option?

 

Mediation may be an option if your spouse is verbally abusive and cannot participate in face-to-face discussions with you. In mediation, the two parties are in separate rooms with their respective attorneys. A trained neutral mediator then works back and forth between the parties building upon the points of agreement until a complete settlement agreement has been reached or until the parties have reached an impasse and choose to go to court.

Mediation is faster than a final court trial and is generally more cost-effective. Like collaborative law, it requires that the couple believe they can each negotiate in good faith to reach an agreement.

Why Choose Mediation Rather than Collaborative Law?

 

Because mediation does not require meeting face-to-face, it can be a good option for couples that cannot communicate effectively in person. If you tend to argue when trying to solve problems, the distance of mediation can be an asset. Steve will advise you on the most appropriate method for your circumstances.