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Is Mediation or Collaboration the Solution for Your Divorce?

If you and your spouse can stand to be in the same room together and to discuss your divorce issues, you may be able to obtain a divorce without ever setting foot inside a courtroom. Couples who are willing to work toward consensus on the essential aspects of their marriage dissolution — such as asset division, spousal support, and custody and child support issues when children are involved — are good candidates for out-of-court resolution via mediation or collaborative divorce.

Mediation — This is a way for divorcing couples to hash out disagreements and come to compromises without having to wait for a court date — definitely an issue in California’s crowded court system. In mediation, you meet for a few sessions with a neutral party, usually a family law attorney trained in mediation techniques, who is acceptable to both sides. Unlike your own lawyer, a mediator will not give legal advice but can explain the law and offer suggestions and solutions to disagreements. You and your spouse (or domestic partner) can each have your own lawyer participate, or you may consult with an attorney privately. Once you settle all or most of the issues, the mediator will draft a settlement agreement that goes to the judge, who incorporates it into the divorce judgment.

Not only is mediation a way to finalize your divorce sooner; it is also likely to save money on legal fees. The informality of the process allows the neutral attorney-mediator to concretize the parties’ disagreements and to identify practical ways to bridge them. Going back and forth between the parties can reduce confrontations and emotional outbursts. Using mediation and communication skills, the mediator typically can get the spouses to focus on solving their property, support and parenting issues.

Collaborative Divorce — This method of resolution allows parties to reach a mutually acceptable disposition of contested issues with professional help. Each party hires their own lawyer for the limited purpose of individual advice and assistance in negotiating the settlement agreement. Both lawyers and both clients also meet regularly. Typically in collaborative divorce, both spouses (or domestic partners) and their lawyers sign a contract to make their best efforts to settle out of court. The risk of collaborative divorce is that if you can’t reach a settlement, your lawyer will withdraw from the case and you’ll have to hire a new lawyer to represent you in court.

Collaborative divorce can give you and your spouse or partner more control over the process and time schedule.  It can also mean extra expenditures.  The collaborative team includes the attorneys and often several neutral experts such as child custody or financial experts used to help the parties understand their options and reach acceptable resolutions. That said, collaborative divorce is almost always less costly than a divorce trial. And team meetings provide a forum where the parties can speak frankly and make offers of settlement without worrying that their words will become binding concessions.

In any divorce process, it is important to consult a lawyer whose practice area focuses on family law before formally agreeing to anything. Williams Family Law represents clients in divorce, child custody and other family law matters throughout the Sacramento region. To learn more about divorce mediation or collaborative divorce, call 916-407-0544 or contact us online to schedule a meeting.


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