Collaborative Divorce Versus Mediation: Which Is Best?

Florida has many options for spouses seeking a divorce, and two of the most popular ones are collaborative divorce and mediation. Both of these have their advantages, and some divorces are better suited for one over the other. Is collaborative divorce right for you, or should you and the other party select mediation instead?

The attorneys of Orlando Family Team help divorcing spouses better understand their options and choose the one that best fits their situation. Whichever option you choose, we can represent you and ensure your interests are protected through the divorce process.

What Is Collaborative Divorce?

Litigation – going to court, arguing in front of a judge, and sometimes waging drawn-out legal battles with the other side – is concerned with winners and losers. On the other hand, collaborative divorce aims to help both spouses work toward a mutually satisfactory outcome to their divorce. Using the collaborative approach, the parties can pursue a divorce that focuses on peacefully ending the marriage rather than fighting for months on end.

Because collaborative divorce forgoes much of the bitterness that comes with trying to “beat” the other spouse in court, the parties have to both agree to it. The court cannot force the parties to choose collaborative divorce, and the process only works so long as both voluntarily continue to use it. When the parties agree to a collaborative divorce, they pledge in writing to avoid court involvement (although the judge will have very minimal oversight, which is required in all divorces). In fact, if one spouse or the other decides to terminate the collaborative divorce, both attorneys have to withdraw and the entire process starts over.

Besides attorneys, parties to a collaborative divorce rely on the input of other outside professionals such as child specialists. These individuals use their specialized knowledge to resolve complex subjects and help the divorce proceed to completion.

What Is Mediation?

Mediation is a step in the divorce process whereby a neutral third party attempts to facilitate a resolution. Mediation is an option most often used in the litigation context after one party has sued the other for divorce. Attorneys are allowed to be present, and the entire mediation could last several hours.

The mediator is not a judge and cannot make any decisions for the parties. His or her function is to help the spouses reach a compromise of outstanding issues such as property and debt division. The mediator will also help identify which issues have to be resolved and propose options for doing so.

If the mediation is successful, the mediator will draft a Memorandum of Understanding that contains the terms of settlement. Upon review of the Memorandum and consulting with their respective attorneys, the parties will sign the document and proceed to completion of the divorce. If it fails, the parties continue to litigate their divorce.

The Main Differences Between Collaborative Divorce And Mediation

These two methods are similar, but there are some critical differences between collaborative divorce and mediation that will affect the outcome. Some of the main ones are:

The goals at stake. The aim of a collaborative divorce is for both spouses to feel satisfied with the outcome. It recognizes that both spouses have their own interests, but these don’t have to necessarily conflict with one other. Collaborative divorce also recognizes that where children are involved, the divorce has to work toward their best interests and concerns as well.

Mediation can help the parties address these types of issues. However, the real goal of mediation is to bring an end to the marriage as expeditiously as possible. Whereas collaborative divorce is best thought of as a process, mediation is generally a one-time event.

The individuals involved. Mediation concerns the parties, their attorneys, and the mediator. The two sides present their concerns and demands with respect to matters like custody and property division. The mediator works to bring the case to a resolution and goes back and forth between the two sides to make it happen.

Since collaborative divorce is more comprehensive in scope, it often requires the participation of other professionals like financial consultants and even mental health specialists. Although mediation lets the parties discuss all issues arising out of the marriage, collaborative divorce allows the active participation of these outside individuals.

The commitment required. With mediation, the parties hope to bring every issue to a close so they can move on with their lives. If mediation succeeds, the agreement worked out can be submitted for the court’s approval; if it doesn’t, the parties will continue to litigate the divorce. This may or may not cause the process to deteriorate into a sparring match between spouses.

Collaborative divorce requires the parties to commit to working out their differences between themselves. The judge will not referee the process like he or she will in a traditionally litigated divorce. If the collaborative divorce fails, the parties’ attorneys have to withdraw and the whole thing starts over. For this reason, choosing collaborative divorce requires a serious emotional and financial commitment to making the process work.

The speed of the case. Because mediation is aimed at bringing an end to the marriage, it is generally quicker than collaborative divorce. The parties usually drive the mediation, so they largely control the speed and pace.

Collaborative divorce can take longer since the goal is reaching a positive outcome for everyone. The speed of the process will also depend on the schedules and availability of the individuals who are involved.

Contact An Orlando Divorce Lawyer Today

Every divorce is different, and the attitudes and circumstances of each one will largely determine which approach is best. The experienced divorce attorneys of Orlando Family Team can examine the facts in your case, and review the pros and cons of collaborative divorce versus mediation. Reach out to us today to get started on your case.