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What’s the difference between collaborative divorce and mediation?

On Behalf of | Oct 24, 2023 | Collaborative Law, Divorce

If you are just entering the process of your divorce and considering your options, you may have encountered the term “Collaborative divorce” or “Collaborative Law” and not understood what it meant. Is a Collaborative divorce the same thing as a divorce resolved through mediation?

The answer is no. In this blog post, we will briefly summarize the two approaches to resolving a divorce.


Mediation is a way for parties to resolve a legal dispute through negotiation. A neutral third party known as a mediator facilitates the negotiation with the goal of helping the parties reach an agreement.

In a mediated divorce, the spouses — each with their own attorney — meet separately with a mediator (also an attorney) to help them reach agreement on the details of property division and child custody, or whatever other issues they can resolve. The mediator does not decide issues, as a judge does. Rather, the mediator’s goal is to help the parties reach their own agreements.

If the mediation is successful, it ends with the parties formalizing their agreement in writing and then submitting it to the court. If it is not successful, the parties will proceed with traditional litigation. This usually means trial, which is a much more expensive, time-consuming and unpredictable way of resolving family law matters.

Collaborative divorce

Collaborative divorce, or Collaborative law, is one way of reaching agreement in a divorce.

The biggest difference is that in a Collaborative divorce, both spouses and their respective attorneys agree in advance, in writing, to resolve their issues through a collaborative process that does not involve the court in any way. If they cannot do so, the attorneys resign from the case, and new attorneys will help the parties with traditional litigation. This creates a powerful incentive to make the mediation process work. Another important element of Collaborative divorce is the involvement of other professionals, including financial planners and mental health professionals. The Collaborative process typically involves regular meetings with clients and attorneys, and sometimes an entire “team” of clients, attorneys, and professionals. During these meetings, the parties discuss settlement and try to make progress toward that goal.

It is important to know that if you are interested in Collaborative divorce, you need an attorney who has been trained to practice this way. Multiple attorneys at Ruppert & Schafer have gone through Collaborative training and can answer any questions you have about this process.

Which is right for me?

Both approaches offer advantages to the parties. Mediation tends to be quicker and less expensive than going to court. It also gives you a greater degree of control over your outcomes, as opposed to leaving matters up to a judge. The same is true of Collaborative divorce, though the Collaborative process is more methodical and involves additional professionals. When done well, either approach can help parties avoid the adversarial nature of litigation, which so often leads to hurt feelings and resentments that linger long after the divorce papers have been signed.