Given the expense and difficulty that can be associated with traditional divorce litigation, many people have begun seeking out alternative divorce strategies. Consequently, other techniques like divorce mediation and collaborative divorce have become more common over the past few decades. This has led to some confusion among people seeking divorces about whether these are different techniques and what the differences might be. The techniques are similar in that they both seek to avoid a long, drawn-out court battle, but there are key differences between mediation and collaborative divorce that may make each of them a better fit for different couples.
The most important feature of divorce mediation is the existence of the mediator. A mediator is a neutral party who participates in discussions with the spouses, and helps them reach agreements on the contested issues like a divorce. While mediators share some similarities with judges, they are private parties, and they have no power to make any decisions in the case. All they can do is talk to the parties and try to help bring them together. The issue of representation is also a key feature of divorce mediation. The spouses are allowed to hire attorneys to advise them, but there is no obligation to do so. These features tend to help keep costs down, and they make mediation a good option for a couple that can still talk civilly and possibly reach a resolution without needing to employ more drastic measures. The downside to mediation is that there is no way to force an agreement, so if the couple cannot come together on an issue, they may find themselves starting all over again in court.
Collaborative divorce is a slightly larger process than mediation. Rather than employing a single, neutral mediator, both spouses hire attorneys to represent them. The attorneys and spouses sign a “no court” agreement in which they agree to keep the divorce out of court. Then, the spouses and their attorneys engage in a series of four-way meetings to try to negotiate a divorce outcome that both spouses can live with. Collaborative divorce may also involve engaging other counseling professionals such as financial counselors or child care specialists who can help advise on possible divorce outcomes. This type of divorce can be particularly beneficial for people who do not want to work with a single neutral party or for couples where there is a long-standing power imbalance in the relationship dynamic. The major downside to collaborative divorce is that if an agreement cannot be reached, the no-court agreement requires the attorneys to withdraw, requiring the couple to start over in court with new attorneys.
If you are considering divorce and would like more information about the different options, such as mediation and collaborative divorce for the process, contact an experienced DuPage County divorce attorney
today. Our firm is here to help you understand your rights, so that you can make the best choice for your situation.