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Are mediation and collaborative divorce the same thing?

If you're currently in the throes of a divorce or separation, you might be struggling to quickly learn the new legal lingo, not to mention the laws that go along with it. This can be frustrating for some considering the fact that some terms are used synonymously with one another despite being two different things.

Take for example divorce mediation and collaborative divorce. Both of these are options for couples to consider when going through divorce. They are both based on the interests of the couple and not on an arbitrary court process. There is also no court involved. The parties become informed and educated, and make the decisions guided by professionals. In litigation, the negotiation process is positional and the responsibility for the negotiations is turned over to each person's attorney.

Each is an option to the traditional adversarial court proceedings.  Each has its own benefits.

Let's take a look.

Divorce Mediation

Mediation, also referred to as divorce mediation, is probably the most well-known divorce alternative and is the one a majority of people think of when the topic of avoiding traditional divorce proceedings gets broached.

Unlike traditional divorce proceedings, which often take place in a courtroom before a judge, couples who choose mediation instead sit down with an impartial person, called the mediator, who acts as a facilitator to resolve family law matters. A mediator's job is to help the couple reach an agreement on various divorce-related issues, including property division, spousal support, child custody and child support. The mediator provides guidance on the legal and financial issues and assists the couple in making decisions. The mediator does not make decisions for the couple.

Many people who go through mediation don't hire a lawyer. However, they often will consult with an attorney to review the final prepared agreement.

Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative divorce offers additional support and life lines for the parties. It is a supportive process in which the divorcing couples, together with trained professionals, work as a team to resolve disputes respectfully, without going to court. Each party has an attorney who acts more as an ally and a divorce coach who helps the parties to foster better communication, a neutral financial specialist and if minor children involved, a child specialist. The professional team commits solely to helping the parties reach agreements. None of the team may represent either party in court or have a future professional relationship with either.

Two processes, one beneficial outcome

Even though mediation and collaborative divorce are two different processes, both have the benefit of giving divorcing couples the option of resolving family matters outside of the courtroom. This can save significant time and money, not to mention giving spouses and partners the power over the divorce process instead of giving that power to a judge. It also reduces the emotional cost to the parties and more importantly, has a lesser impact on the children.

The first decision a couple makes is to get a divorce, whether it is a joint decision or not. The second most important decision is to choose what is the appropriate process to use to finalize the divorce. That is why many couples are seeing the advantage of choosing either mediation or collaborative divorce.

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