For most of the history of divorce, there was only one way to do it: litigation. This is partially why divorce is so often described in terms like “battle” and “fight.” It begins the process on adversarial terms with the idea of a winner and a loser.
Divorce doesn’t need to be this way. And thankfully, other options are now available under an area of law known as alternative dispute resolution (ADR). In today’s post, we’ll discuss two ADR options, including mediation and collaborative divorce.
These two types of ADR are similar but not interchangeable. First, let’s start with the similarities. In both cases, couples agree to work out the details of their divorce (including property division, child custody, etc.) without going to court. They do this through a series of negotiation sessions facilitated by one or more professionals. Once the details are agreed upon verbally, they are formalized in writing. Only then will the couple go before a judge to finalize the divorce and make the agreement legally official.
If a couple is unable to reach agreement (using either method), the case will essentially need to start over and be resolved through litigation.
The biggest differences between mediation and collaborative divorce are the professionals involved. When couples mediate, the sessions are facilitated by a neutral third party whose job is to keep spouses talking and negotiating with one another. The mediator cannot make decisions in the case or give advice to either spouse.
In collaborative divorce, the mediator is replaced by two attorneys, each representing one spouse. The negotiations occur between the spouses and their attorneys, who should be trained in the collaborative process. Additional professionals can be brought it to advise on matters of finances, child custody, property division or any other topic that requires experienced and knowledgeable insight.
Both of these forms of ADR have their merits, but the advantage of collaborative divorce is the direct and immediate input from an attorney who specifically has your best interests in mind. You don’t always have that in mediation.
Our firm is proud to offer collaborative divorce representation to clients in western North Carolina. To learn more, visit our collaborative divorce page.