I’ve been practicing family law for more than a decade now. Several years ago, I decided to switch my practice from litigating cases to keeping couples out of court entirely.
What I do is called collaborative divorce, but I’m also a certified family court mediator. People often use the two terms interchangeably. I want to explain some of the differences between the two, with the hope that it will help you decide which approach you need.
Both collaborative law and mediation are in the same family, so to speak. They share the same goal of resolving family disputes outside of court. Both options give you, the client, the most control over the outcome of your case. However, they differ to the extent in which the parties are in agreement on their domestic issues.
Divorce is not always ugly. Sometimes, spouses are willing to cooperate to end their marriage very amicably. Collaborative divorce attorneys are specifically trained in the collaborative divorce process. Each spouse has his or her own attorney and all parties enter into a legal contract, committing to work together to separate assets and debts, decide on parenting time, alimony, and so forth. Sometimes, spouses utilize additional neutral third-party experts to help them, such as a financial planner to analyze their marital estate and make recommendations regarding an equitable division of assets.
In this scenario, I represent one spouse and advocate on that individual’s behalf. However, I also cooperate with the other side to make sure we’re all fully transparent, disclose all the financial details, and get the divorce resolved amicably and efficiently. In this approach, we all work as a team.
Mediation is different in that you have a neutral third party as a go-between for you and your spouse to help you resolve your divorce, generally in a one-day session. If you are litigating your divorce in North or South Carolina, mediation is required prior to a final trial, and a court will either appoint a mediator or both parties will agree on a mediator. If you and your ex are amicable, you can agree to mediation on your own, with or without attorneys participating in the process.
While I take many clients to mediation as their attorney, I also often serve as a private mediator for two spouses. In that scenario, I am the neutral third party. I help those who cannot come to an agreement on certain aspects of their divorce but who would still like to settle outside of court.
As a neutral, I do not advocate for either side, but I do try to help each spouse or parent see and empathize with the position of the other. Mediators cannot not give legal advice, either. They are trained to facilitate negotiations between the parties so that the parties can come to an agreement on their own terms. In both the collaborative process and mediation, you get to decide what works best for your family going forward.
Generally, parties will call my office and request one service or the other. More often, parties are confused about which option will work best for their family. If you are unsure of what you need, you can always call and schedule a consultation to discuss your specific situation in detail and receive recommendations and legal advice.
No matter what role I play, my mission is to do divorce differently. I’ve successfully mediated and collaborated on countless cases and I’m grateful that families have walked away from this process as emotional and financially intact as possible.
If you’re ready to divorce differently, call us and set up a consultation. We’d love to help.