Well it’s not the same as ‘meditation’ (sitting quietly and connecting to your inner being) and it’s also nothing to do with ‘getting back together’. These are common misconceptions so I wanted to get that out of the way first of all. Mediation is not appropriate for people who are in physical or psychological danger by being in the same room as their partner, such as in a serious domestic abuse situation, but just not liking each other any more is not a good reason to forsake a tried and tested method of facilitating a long term, sustainable way forward as separate people. Mediation allows a couple a supported and guided method to end their marriage.
It can also be a useful way to sort out parenting issues. With an experienced mediator, even the most difficult roadblocks on the way through divorce and family breakup can be overcome, and you don’t have to go to court. Which is a good thing, as this saves you money and a whole lot of stress. If your mediator doesn’t happen to be a financial expert, you can bring in a financial planner to deal with any tricky sums relating to house values and pension splitting, (most lawyers would also need to use a financial planner to help sort out that kind of stuff). The only need for a lawyer would be to check out any legal points that might arise and to make sure your final agreement – although not legally binding – is suitably drafted and appropriate for the judge who will ultimately still makes the decision over what is a ‘fair’ settlement.
But you don’t have to go to court or fight over anything, and the mediation sessions are confidential and allow couples to focus on positive goals such as co-parenting after parting. Emotionally, it can be easier to take a more combative approach if you are angry or deeply hurt, which is why I recommend coaching of some kind prior to mediation to get you into the best emotional and psychological headspace to gain the best benefits from the process.
Collaborative lawyers keep you out of court. In fact, you can’t go to court if you use a collaborative lawyer. Should negotiations break down between both parties, and a couple decide to go to court, then they have to get different lawyers to represent them. The advantage of this is that collaborative lawyers have a huge incentive (as do the couple) to find a sustainable and acceptable agreement on all matters relating to the divorce.
Collaborative law differs from using only mediators mainly in that the couple have immediate access to legal advice ‘on tap’ during the sessions. So if you wanted to pop out of the room and have a private chat with your collaborative lawyer, that would be fine, which is not so easily the case with mediation as the mediator must remain completely impartial. So it’s like having someone helping you ‘in your corner’, which can be useful, but also it must be remembered that the collaborative process thrives on the same elements as mediation does – full financial disclosure, and clear communication.
Just because someone is trained in collaborative law does not mean they always work ‘collaboratively’ and it is important to choose your collaborative lawyer carefully. This is of course the same with choosing a mediator or any other professional. Make sure they share your commitment and passion to the positive outcomes of your divorce or break up such as a strong parenting partnership agreement or being comfortable that the final financial settlement was fair. You are in charge or your divorce, not the lawyers. There are some excellent professionals out there, so don’t just settle for someone who has the job title if you don’t really feel confident that they will be someone you want to work with. You can contact some collaborative lawyers direct to find out more through our Expert Directory: Collaborative Lawyers