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Our Blog

February 25th, 2021

Collaborative Divorce vs. Mediation: What is the Difference?

by TracieWB

If you are considering a divorce, but your stomach turns at the thought of going to court, there are other options available to you. Both collaborative divorce and mediation are alternative approaches to divorce that help separating couples stay out of court and work through their divorce amicably.

While both approaches to divorce are non-litigious, there are several important distinctions between the two. In this blog post, we explore the differences between collaborative divorce and mediation, as well as the benefits of each. 

What is Mediation?

Divorce mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process where a third-party mediator guides a separating couple to resolve issues related to property distribution, child custody, alimony, and other divorce matters.

Divorce mediators can be non-attorneys, however, it is common for a family law attorney to play the role of mediator. At Wagnor & Bloch, for example, our attorneys routinely mediate divorces. Mediation is a good option for spouses who want to avoid legal action.

What is Collaborative Divorce?

The Ohio Collaborative Family Law Act was signed into law in 2012, specifying how collaborative divorces in Ohio should be performed and creating certification requirements for attorneys practicing collaborative law. In a collaborative divorce, neither spouse has to file for a divorce. Rather, both spouses agree to all of the issues relating to the dissolution of marriage – such as property division, child support, custody, and alimony – prior to filing in court.

Collaborative divorces entail both parties, each represented by an attorney, entering into what is called a Collaborative Agreement. This is a legally binding contract that obligates each party to the divorce to engage in the collaborative process. This contract also limits the scope of each attorney’s representation. For example, attorneys must withdraw from the case if the collaborative process proves unsuccessful.

There are also other professionals that play a role in collaborative divorce. For example, a collaborative divorce may involve a Family Relations Specialist who facilitates discussions related to children, or a Financial Specialist who can help if there are complex financial issues.

Separating spouses seek collaborative divorces for a couple of reasons, a couple of which we discuss here. First, collaborative divorce helps limit the cost of the divorce. Second, parties are committed to being cooperative, low conflict, and candid in negotiations. By accepting that the marriage is coming to an end, and taking a proactive approach to deal with difficult questions about finances, child custody, and spousal support, couples are able to side-step a potentially contentious and adversarial situation.

In a collaborative divorce, both parties must agree to every aspect of the divorce. When this does not happen, the lawyers for each spouse must withdraw from representation and they will need to start the divorce process anew.

Do I need An Attorney for Collaborative Divorce or Mediation?

In a collaborative divorce, each spouse must be represented by an attorney. During the course of the divorce, there will be several meetings involving you, your spouse, and your lawyers, as well as any other professionals needed. In these meetings, spouses cooperate to work through issues like distribution of property and child custody. In mediation, by contrast, the process is facilitated by an unbiased, third-party mediator. During mediation, the mediator works with both parties to construct a mutually agreeable divorce settlement.

If you are exploring collaborative divorce, you should first speak with an experienced family law attorney. Your attorney will take a look at your goals, your assets, and your unique family dynamics to help you determine the best course of action.

Do you have questions about your divorce? Contact Wagner & Bloch today to schedule an initial consultation.