Law Office of Stephen W. Penn and Associates

Mediation or collaboration: Which is better?

If you and your spouse contemplate seeking a California divorce, likely neither of you relishes the prospect of spending months in court fighting each other. If you are like most divorcing couples today, you probably would prefer to take a more amicable approach to ending your marriage. If so, you will be glad to know that you have two non-court options: mediation and collaboration.

Greenbush Financial explains that while a mediated divorce and a collaborative one are similar in nature, they are two different processes, with some distinct differences. Choosing which is best for you depends on your own personal situation.

Major difference

The major difference between mediation and collaboration rests on the involvement of attorneys. Should you and your spouse choose mediation, neither of you likely will hire your own attorney, although you have every right to do so. Most couples, however, hire only a neutral professional mediator who represents neither of them. Instead, once you and your spouse agree on the mediator to hire, (s)he acts as your facilitator and guide during a series of joint meetings wherein you and your spouse negotiate and compromise with each other to resolve your own issues.

If you choose a collaborative divorce, however, both you and your spouse hire your own attorney just like you would do were you to litigate your divorce. But while your respective attorneys represent you, they do not look upon themselves as adversaries. Nor do they view you and your spouse as adversaries. Rather, while the four of you participate in joint meetings similar in nature to those during mediation, your attorneys look out for your respective interests and make sure that the agreements you and your spouse reach get reduced to writings that become part of your ultimate divorce decree.

Secondary difference

The other difference between mediation and collaboration may or may not affect you and your spouse depending on your own situation. That is the issue of discovery. In a mediated divorce, your mediator has no authority to force either you or your spouse to produce financial and other documents. In a collaborative divorce, both attorneys have the authority to issue requests for production of all pertinent documents. They also have the authority to issue interrogatories and requests for admissions.

This is educational information only and not intended to provide legal advice. However, it can help you understand the differences between a mediated and a collaborative divorce so you can make an informed choice.

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  • State Bar Of California | California Board Of Legal Specialization | Stephen W. Penn
  • Henry P. Collada Memorial Award 2012