Alternative dispute resolution has been part of the family law landscape for a while. The Texas legislature granted attorneys and their clients the opportunity to use the mediation process in 1987 and the collaborative divorce process more recently in 2001.
It’s not uncommon for people to confuse collaborative divorce with mediation, or wonder what the differences are between the two and which is right for them. While there are some similarities—both utilize interest-based negotiation and provide the parties an opportunity to work together to resolve their dispute confidentially —there are also some significant differences.
Following is a downloadable chart highlighting a comparison of the similarities and differences between collaborative divorce and mediation:
|Begins immediately, often before anything is filed with the court||Typically occurs further along in the litigation process after significant amounts of money have been spent on discovery and hearings|
|Participants include: Each party and their attorney Financial expert (neutral) Mental health expert (neutral)||Participants include: Each party and their attorney Mediator (neutral)|
|All parties are in the same room together||Both parties and their attorneys are in separate rooms, and the mediator travels between the two|
|4-8 joint sessions (usually 2 hours each)||1 all-day session (minimum of 4 hours, but often 8-12 hours)|
|Both parties must be represented by their own attorney||Parties may represent themselves|
|No pressure to resolve the case in a set amount of time; process moves at a pace that is comfortable to all parties and sessions may be postponed if additional information is required||Typically completely in one day-long session; if not resolved, the case continues to litigation|
|Parties agree to full disclosure; neither party withholds important information||Typically, information is obtained through the discovery process in litigation|
|If the parties are not able to resolve their issues, they may end the process and litigate their divorce||If the parties are not able to resolve their issues, they may end the process and litigate their divorce|
|Voluntary||Voluntary or ordered by the court before trial|
|Parties control the date and outcome||Parties control the date and outcome|
|Informal setting (outside of courtroom)||Informal setting (outside of courtroom)|