Collaborative Law v. Mediation

If you’ve decided to get divorced, it can be difficult sometimes to determine what to do next. There are many options for how to not only begin the process but also how to go through the divorce itself. Now you may have already decided that you want to do work through your divorce with your spouse amicably, and even then, there are options for how you proceed. Two main options you have are mediation or collaborative law, and while there are similarities between the two, they differ significantly, and it’s important to know the differences before you get started.

What Is Mediation?

Mediation is an agreement reaching process where you work together with a mediator, who is a neutral third party to come to agreements on the issues in your divorce. The mediator will assist and guide the parties in resolving the issues in their divorce; however, they will not tell the parties what to do or require them to do things a certain way. The mediator assists in problem-solving and reaching solutions on the issues in the divorce including parenting plan if there are children, child and/or spousal support and division of assets and debts. As a neutral third party, the mediator does not represent either of the parties and cannot give legal advice to either of the parties. The mediator can, however, provide legal information and help the parties understand what could happen if they ended up in court.

The mediator will assist the parties in identifying and understanding the issues that need to be addressed in your divorce. They will work with the parties to complete their financial disclosures, act as a peacemaker while helping to guide the negotiations provide options when the couple is unable to resolve the issue on their own and draft the required paperwork and marital settlement agreement once the agreements are reached. Often in mediation, the spouses will consult with an attorney throughout the process and/or review their final agreement before signing. However, it is not required. While many of our clients do choose to work with an attorney for part of the process, they know that ultimately that decision is up to them to decide and while we recommend it, we do not require that.

In our mediation process, we work collaboratively with other professionals depending on what it is that the parties need. Some couples might require one or two financial professionals either as a neutral or working with on spouse individually. Other times a therapist may meet with the children or the couple to assist them in moving forward.  We understand that every couple is different, and we work with the professionals necessary to complete the divorce amicably. The cost of mediation usually ranges from $3,000 – $10,000 total for both parties depending on the complexity and how much time is necessary for mediation.

What Is Collaborative Law?

Collaborative law or collaborative divorce is another option for divorce help in San Diego which is kind of in between a traditional divorce using attorneys and mediation. In collaborative law, each party hires their collaborative attorney (a family law attorney trained in the collaborative process) to represent them in the collaborative process only. All parties involved signing a contract that they are committed to using cooperative techniques instead of combative tactics and if the collaborative process falls apart then the parties must hire new attorneys to represent them in any divorce proceeding.

In collaborative law, there are often other professionals involved as well including mental health professionals, financial professions, child specialist and even a mediator. While there may be professionals such as mental health professionals, financial advisors, or the mediator that works as a neutral each of the attorneys only represents their individual client’s interests, however, also are working towards a negotiated agreement. Depending on the number of professionals involved the cost and time from start to finish can significantly vary. While it is still usually less expensive than the traditional litigation process, the more professionals involved, the more costly the process can be.

Collaborative law can be attractive for couples who do not believe that mediation is the right option or want to have their attorney representing them throughout the whole process. Collaborative law can be a sort of middle ground between mediation and litigation which still allows the parties to keep their costs down and work together collaboratively.


If you are interested in mediation or collaborative law, contact West Coast Family Mediation Center. We can set up a time for a free consultation to discuss your options and see if mediation is the right option for you.

by: Amanda Singer


Amanda Singer with west coast family mediation center

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