Mediation, Collaboration Or Divorce Court — Which One Is Right For YOU?


How to find the easiest way through a very hard time.

The hardest part is realizing your marriage is over and it's time to get a divorce.

It doesn't matter whether you both know it's the right thing to do, or one of you is completely on board and the other in denial, ending a marriage is hard.

Divorce rates have dropped and marriages are once again lasting longer and longer...which only makes it only harder when you need — for your sake as well as your spouse's — to get a divorce.

But once you get past that difficult decision, you're faced with another daunting question: how should you go about getting your divorce?

Do you go through the courts like most people, allowing the judge to make orders or the lawyers to bully you into a settlement you don’t know if you want? Do you go through a private mediator? Or is a collaborative divorce the way to go?

In our latest Quickies video (which you can watch above), Expert Katherine Miller — a family law attorney who’s chosen to focus her practice solely on mediation and collaborative divorce — breaks down the difference between these confusing options to help you find what's right for you.

What is mediation?

In mediation, you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse work with a mediator to reach agreement on all of the same terms related to your divorce that a judge would decide for you — but with the two of you sharing the driver’s seat.

The mediator’s job is to serve as a neutral facilitator helping you productively discuss even the most difficult issues and resolve any conflicts that come up along the way.

In a mediation, both parties may or may not choose to hire consulting attorneys. Even when they do, it's not as common to have them present in the actual sessions with you, although you can choose to have them if you'd like.

What is collaboration?

A collaborative divorce involves a team of professionals who work together — collaboratively — to help the two of you reach agreements on these same issues.

The team is typically composed of a mediator, one attorney representing each of you, one divorce coach representing each of you, a financial professional who specializes in divorce-related financial issues, and, if applicable, a child specialist to help develop a solid parenting plan and custody schedule.

That may sound like a crowded room, but not every one of those professionals will need to be present for every session.

The most effective and distinguishing factor of working with a collaborative divorce team is the collaborative agreement you, your spouse and each of the professionals sign before starting the process. 

The collaborative agreement states that if for any reason one of you chooses to leave the collaborative process and head to court for litigation, you must release the entire team of professionals and start again from scratch. This provides an incentive for the parties AND the professionals to keep their priorities pointed straight ahead with the goal of resolving all issues outside of the court process.

What about divorce court?

In a divorce court, both parties have their lawyers to plead their case in the hopes of getting what they are "entitled" to. And while many cases settle outside of the courtroom, the rest get settled by the judge in your case. You can appeal but they are hard to win.

Put simply, going through court is a gamble.

Not every case is the same.

Just because your friend's divorce settled perfectly in mediation doesn't mean you should mediate yours.

The most important thing you can do is figure out which is best for you. It can make all the difference in the world between a bitter divorce and an amicable (and easy-ish!) divorce.

If you need help choosing between mediation or collaborative divorce, negotiating a divorce, or any other relationship problem, check out Katherine's website. She's here to help!