Collaborative Divorce vs Mediation: What’s the Difference?

  1. Separation & Divorce
  2. Collaborative Divorce vs Mediation: What’s the Difference?
Two parties with fingertips on money, resting on clipboard of third party who is writing. Judge's gavel is in the foreground | New Direction Family Law

With a divorce rate of 2.3 per 1,000 people, North Carolina’s rate is higher than the national average. In order to get divorced in North Carolina, a couple has to be separated and living apart for at least one year, and there must be at least one spouse who has lived in the state for at least six months.

But if you’re a North Carolina resident with a marriage nearing its conclusion, you need to understand what your options are for resolving your divorce. If you hope to resolve the issues of your divorce out of the courtroom, two alternative options you might consider are : collaborative divorce and mediation. These two legal avenues include benefits that litigating the divorce process does not offer. Gain a full understanding of each and decide if they may be better for your circumstances.

Understanding Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative divorce is a client-centered approach where each spouse is represented by a family law attorney that is trained in the collaborative divorce process. The spouses and their collaborative divorce attorneys work toward a resolution of the divorce issues in organized conferences. The goal is to resolve disagreements about custody arrangements, division of assets, child support, spousal support, and other outstanding issues without going to court. 

When working to reach an agreement, the collaborative divorce attorneys may request the help of other qualified, third-party professionals such as financial specialists, appraisers, child therapists, and divorce coaches. If an agreement is reached, you and your spouse will formalize the agreed upon terms in a legally binding document drafted by the attorneys. 

Understanding Divorce Mediation

Divorce mediation is a dispute resolution process, involving each spouse and their attorneys meeting with a neutral, third-party mediator to come to terms on all of the divorce issues. This professional mediator serves as a communicator between the two parties. The mediator aims to help both parties agree on a resolution, rather than going to court where a judge would rule on the terms of the separation. 

Some or all of the issues may be settled in mediation, and whatever terms are agreed upon, are formalized in a legal document. Each spouse has the right to request representation from an attorney through the mediation process. 

The Differences Between Collaborative Divorce & Mediation

As you can see, these two solutions are centered on both parties reaching an amicable solution together with the assistance of family law attorneys or a mediator. However, there are some key differences between both processes. The defining characteristics of each may lead you to choose one over the other.

Here are some of the finer points you should know when deciding between collaborative divorce and mediation.

A Mediator Prioritizes Neutrality 

Mediators provide complete neutrality in resolving the disputes in a divorce. Mediation focuses on reaching a peaceful agreement over matters surrounding the legal separation. You are not required to have a family law attorney represent you during mediation, but it can be very helpful in helping you understand your legal rights and determine negotiation strategies.  

With the assistance of a family law lawyer, individuals also ensure all of their wishes are communicated appropriately. This gives them the best chance of reaching an outcome that benefits them and their families.

Spouses Hire Their Own Attorneys in Collaborative Divorce

While mediators are third parties that help the two of you and your attorneys together, for collaborative divorce, you each must hire your own attorney that is a certified collaborative divorce attorney. The attorneys in the collaborative divorce process work for the interests of the party they represent.

Each attorney is working to help their client reach the outcome they desire, but the process is usually less adversarial than divorce proceedings in court. And remember, there is no judge to decide on the terms. It’s up to the spouses and their lawyers, which can help reach a positive outcome for both parties. 

Experts Are Often Brought in for Collaborative Divorce

Lawyers who represent each party must be certified in the collaborative divorce process and may hire the input of other experts to help negotiate and reach an agreement.. Mediation only involves the two spouses, their attorneys and a trained mediator.

These experts may include financial professionals, divorce coaches, and experts in parenting and child care. With the help of these professionals, attorneys are able to facilitate agreements that are more appropriate for the circumstances of both parties.

You May Save Money With Mediation

With the average cost of trial with at least one contested issue being over $20,000, you likely want to save as much money as possible. 

Not needing to prepare for court, obtain extensive documentation, draft required court documents, etc., can be a cost-savings benefit when you opt for mediation services. However, you would still  be responsible for any mediator and attorney representation fees. While it may not be required to have attorney representation for mediation, a lot of mediators require both parties to have attorneys in order to conduct the mediation. 

By not having an attorney, you also run the risk of not getting the full extent of what you are entitled to. If you worry about your ability to stand up for what you are owed, it is in your best interest to hire an attorney to represent you in mediation.

Filing for Divorce on Your Terms

At New Direction Family Law, we bring decades of experience to assist you with your family law matters. Whether you are considering collaborative divorce or mediation, our attorneys represent your rights and what matters most. We serve clients in Wake, Durham, Johnston, and surrounding counties with a resolution-driven approach to help you reach an outcome that best serves you and your family. 

Ready to contact us? Send us a message using our contact form or call us at (919)-646-6561.

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