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Collaborative Law Vs. Mediation

Posted By Judy Williams || 27-Jul-2014

Mediation vs. Collaborative Family Law Approach – Which One is Right for You?

Divorcing couples in the Fullerton, Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, CA areas contemplate between utilizing the collaborative family law approach or mediation to promptly resolve their divorce disputes. Though both options allow couples to decide how to best resolve any pending issues, mediation is the more reasonable approach to utilize. Read on to learn more.

What is Mediation?

Divorcing couples routinely use mediators to help resolve their disputes without the court’s oversight. Mediation allows a divorcing couple to use a neutral party to help bring them together in a controlled environment while negotiating the terms of their case, which may include child support, custody and visitation, spousal support, and property division.

The mediator is present to help the couple reach an agreement and does not make any decisions for the couple. Further the mediator does not provide legal advice to either party. Mediators do, however, give both parties identical legal information so that their decisions will be based upon knowledge of the law.

How Does Mediation Work?

During mediation, both parties negotiate directly with each other regarding the terms of their divorce. Some parties prefer to have their attorney present during mediation, but some mediators advise against it.

Prior to attending mediation, each party will call the mediator and provide background information about the marriage and any pending divorce issues. Upon attending the first meeting, the mediator will explain what you can expect throughout the process and what to expect from him/her.

Once an agreement is reached, the mediator, or the party’s attorney, will draft a full settlement agreement. Upon final execution, the marital settlement agreement will be attached to the final judgment.

What is Collaborative Family Law?

The collaborative family law approach, often referred to as collaborative law, allows divorcing couples to come together and discuss, negotiate, and agree to the terms of their marital dissolution without the court’s involvement.

It is a cost effective and time saving approach that allows individuals to reach an agreement regarding the dissolution of their marriage that best suits their needs.

Prior to starting the collaborative law process, the parties must sign a written pledge stating that they will not litigate any marital disputes in court and act in good faith while exchanging information during the negotiation process.

How Does the Collaborative Family Law Approach Work?

Prior to signing the initial agreement to commence the collaborative law process, each party must retain counsel trained in collaborative law (each party must be represented by counsel throughout all stages of the negotiations). The parties will sign an agreement that states the terms that will govern the process, such as the type of experts that will be hired, and how costs will be allocated.

Once the initial agreement is executed between the parties, each party will have time to meet with their attorney to discuss the terms of the their settlement agreement. It is the attorney’s duty to focus on how the party can resolve his/her issue in the most civil matter.

The attorneys will schedule times to meet in order for all parties to come together and negotiate any contested terms. In the event an agreement is not reached, each party will retain new counsel and start the divorce process all over again. If the parties reach a final agreement, it will be drafted into a their settlement agreement, executed, and included in the final judgment.

Which One is Right for You?

Mediation and the collaborative law approach are great legal tools to utilize for a divorcing couple to reach an agreement regarding the dissolution of their marriage without the assistance of the court.

Under most circumstances, mediation is more affordable that collaborative law in the Orange County, California area. This is in large part due to the legal fees of attorneys during the collaborative law approach. As mentioned above, couples that utilize mediation can choose to obtain counsel, or go through the process unrepresented until a marital settlement agreement is reached.

Further, because mediators are often used during the collaborative law approach when the couples cannot reach an agreement, it is usually the best initial course to take.

If you are considering using a mediator or the collaborative law approach, contact our office for guidance. Newport Beach Divorce Mediation Attorney Judy Williams can review your case and recommend the appropriate course of action to take on your behalf.

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