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Collaborative Divorce vs. Mediation: Key Differences


As divorcing couples become more aware of the alternatives to traditional litigation, some are starting to demand options beyond standard divorce settlement negotiations. Especially if children are involved, spouses want more control over the terms of the outcome, and fewer reasons to generate additional negative emotion or obstacles to communication. People are often aware of mediation as an alternative to litigation because this process is used to resolve a number of legal disputes. Another option that is generating increased recognition and adoption is collaborative divorce, a process specifically designed to be non-adversarial and cater to the needs of the parties. Each process offers its own benefits and drawbacks, which should guide which one might best meet the needs and expectations of the parties. Understanding what these alternative resolution options can offer gives divorcing spouses the opportunity to make an informed choice about how to end their marriage, instead of defaulting to fighting things out in court. A discussion of how each process operates, and the key differences between them, will follow below.


Mediation is a resolution process that uses a neutral third-party, a mediator, to facilitate agreement and settlement between the parties. Essentially, the mediator acts as an intermediary while a couple tries to form an acceptable divorce agreement, and may choose to conduct sessions with both parties in one room or separately. The couple does not negotiate directly with one another, and is usually accompanied by a divorce attorney, but is kept abreast of progression in forming an agreement. They can, however, directly participate in strategizing the next steps in the negotiation process and decide if the process is no longer working. Financial and family experts may be invited to attend so they may comment on proposed terms in these areas, but they are not always necessary. Communications and settlements generated during these sessions are almost always confidential, and mediation sessions can typically be scheduled within weeks, compared to the many months it takes to a divorce hearing in court.

Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative divorce, on the other hand, is a completely non-adversarial process that actively promotes open communication, so the parties can maintain or improve their relationship post-divorce. This process is particularly conducive to forming a foundation for co-parenting, a parenting arrangement that has each party equally involved in the child’s daily life. Unlike mediation, collaborative divorce has each spouse directly communicating with the other over settlement terms, and each must pledge to suspend or forego filing a court action while the process is ongoing. Importantly, the couple must agree at the outset to work together in good faith, and to disclose information that is necessary to complete the process. Specially-trained attorneys and professional experts help the couple find a path to an acceptable divorce settlement, but the attorneys cannot maintain representation if the collaborative process is later aborted and court intervention sought. The goal of collaborative divorce is to give the parties the sense they are working towards a common purpose and receiving fair treatment. Further, spouses use one neutral financial expert and one neutral mental health expert, which cuts down on cost and the likelihood of conflict. Perhaps the most important benefit, though, is the high level of control this process provides on the final outcome of the divorce, which greatly reduces the possibility of post-divorce litigation. Consulting with a collaborative divorce attorney is the best way to know if this process is right in a particular case.

Contact a Florida Divorce Attorney

Picking the right path to divorce is key to getting the outcome you want. Court is not your only option, and the experienced attorneys at Orlando’s Goodblatt ∙ Leo are here to guide you toward an amicable and workable settlement. Contact us today at (407) 228-7007 to schedule a consultation and get your questions answered.


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