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The difference between collaborative law and mediation

Avoiding divorce court may be a wise decision for couples looking to save time and money. Many people in Illinois seek alternatives, such as collaborative law and mediation. There are distinct similarities between mediation and collaboration, such as the following: 

  •        They are both non-adversarial processes
  •        They are both voluntary
  •        They are both only successful if the parties can come to an agreement

However, there are key differences between the two processes.

In collaboration, both spouses will sign an agreement to abide by the rules of the proceeding. According to the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, collaborative law allows for a couple to bring in separate attorneys as well as professionals who specialize in finance, mental health and child support. The entire group works together to find an amicable resolution.

Alternatively, mediation involves just one person - the mediator - who helps the couple negotiate the terms of the separation. The mediator does not have to be an attorney, though he or she should be well-versed in divorce and family law. During the process, both spouses can meet with their attorneys separately and prior to the final settlement. The mediator cannot make any final decisions; instead, he or she tries to get the couple to come to an agreement.

Another key difference is that collaboration has a discovery phase built into the process. The couple must exchange finances and other pertinent information. Mediation does not formally include this step.

As an article in Forbes magazine points out, collaborative law requires that a couple and their attorneys sign an agreement that the lawyers will withdraw from the case in the event that the divorce must go to court. Therefore, the couple will have to find new attorneys for litigation proceedings.

Forbes warns that in situations in which one spouse is suspected of hiding assets or has a history of domestic violence, neither mediation nor collaborative law may be a good fit.

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