By Orlando Family Law Attorney Tom Marks
First, let me say that both the Collaborative Law Process and Mediation have their place and each can be very beneficial in the right circumstances. However, although they may appear similar at first blush, their focus and processes are different. Both attempt to help the Parties resolve their issues without formal litigation, with the goal being a Settlement Agreement in their case.
One calls that agreement a Collaborative Law Agreement and the other calls it a Mediation Agreement.
Let’s look at the differences.
Collaborative Law vs. Divorce Mediation
Mediation typically involves “positional bargaining,” while Collaborative involves mutual “goal setting.” An essential difference is that in Mediation the parties typically take their respective corners and usually start bargaining from polar extremes.
Each Party normally hopes to end up somewhere closer to the middle or, depending on his or her perspective, closer to their position.
In the collaborative family law, collaborative divorce or collaborative problem solving, the parties come together in a more transparent fashion. They outline their goals together and work together to find common purposes like “protecting the minor children.”
Another difference is the people involved. The Collaborative Process includes a team working together, not just the Clients and their Attorneys. The team includes a Collaborative Mental Health Professional and a Financial Collaborative Professional. These two professionals are considered “neutrals” and they do not advocate for one side or the other; they are part of the solution. And the attorneys, because they sign the Collaborative Agreement stating that they will not take the case to Court, are also vested in reaching resolution in the Collaborative Process.
One last important difference: although all Family Law cases in Central Florida are required to go to Mediation before they proceed to any contested Hearings, Collaborative Cases only proceed where both parties agree. There has to be some level of trust and willingness to be open and transparent for the Collaborative process to be effective. However, the potential benefits are tremendous for the parties, their children, finances and futures. But if the trust isn’t there or the Collaborative Process is not an option, Mediation is still far better than formal litigation, which usually results in substantial pain to everyone involved.
Check out this video of Attorney Tom Marks and Attorney Ronald Sims discussing Collaborative Law vs. Mediation: