Recently I wrote about how collaboration and mediation are alike and how they are different. I’ve had a number of clients ask me recently about these two ways of going through divorce, and which way is best. The only response I have for them is, “Well, that depends.”
Let’s explore this a bit further, and I think you’ll see what I mean. Collaborative divorce is worth considering if some or all of the following are true for you:
- You want a civilized, respectful resolution of your issues.
- You would like to keep open the possibility of friendship with your partner after the divorce.
- You and your spouse will be co-parenting children and you want the best co-parenting relationship possible.
- You want to protect your children from the harm associated with litigated dispute resolution between parents.
- You and your spouse have friends and extended family in common to whom you both want to remain connected.
- You have ethical and spiritual beliefs that place high value on taking personal responsibility for handling conflicts with integrity.
- You value privacy in your personal affairs and do not want details of your problems to be available in the public court record.
- You value control and autonomous decision-making and do not want to hand over decisions about restructuring your financial and/or child-rearing arrangements to a stranger (i.e., a judge).
- You recognize the restricted range of outcomes generally available in the public court system, and you want a more creative and customized range of choices available to you and your spouse for resolving your issues.
- You place as much or more value on the relationships that will exist in your restructured family situation as you place on obtaining the maximum possible amount of money for yourself.
- You understand that conflict resolution with integrity involves not only achieving your own goals but finding a way to achieve the reasonable goals of the other person.
- You and your spouse will commit your intelligence and energy toward creative problem solving rather than toward recriminations or revenge—fixing the problem rather than fixing blame. 2001 American Bar Association
Both process allow you to resolve your issues without going to court. Mediation works well when there is a balance of power in the relationship and you and your spouse already have an idea of how things will be resolved. If you feel totally lost and have the need for more support than mediation offers, then collaboration may be the better choice for you.
My best advice to help you choose which way to go is to talk with your spouse about it, talk with your counselor, minister, or rabbi about it, and have a consultation with a lawyer who is a mediator and collaborative attorney. Then once you and your spouse have gathered more information, you will know which will be the best option for you.
Remember, there is no “one size fits all” process. What does your gut tell you? There’s your answer.