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Collaborative Divorce? Mediation? What Is the Difference?

When a divorce or separation becomes the best course of action for a couple, people often assume that they do not have choices in how to conduct the divorce. In fact, beyond the traditional method of divorce (through a court petition and ending with a divorce or separation agreement signed by a judge), there are several methods from which a couple may choose. Collaborative divorce and mediation are two of these methods, although at first glance they appear and quite similar. What is the difference between the two? There are many distinctions between the two processes, despite their similarities.

Differences in Key Features

Mediation involves the assistance of a neutral person (a mediator) to assist both spouses in negotiating a divorce agreement. One or both spouses can hire attorneys if they prefer (and often it is a wise move). The mediator has no power to bindingly decide the case or make the agreement, and only serves to bridge the gap between both spouses and help to organize and structure a fair divorce agreement with which both parties can be satisfied. By contrast, both spouses in collaborative divorce are represented by collaborative attorneys. The collaborative divorce process requires all parties to sign an agreement to not pursue divorce via the court process. Instead of both spouses attending negotiation proceedings with a mediator in the middle, in a collaborative divorce, spouses and the attorneys representing them all meet together to discuss a potential agreement. Unlike mediation, collaborative divorce may also involve other collaborative professionals to assist with tasks like valuing assets or managing finances.

Persuading Factors

Mediation is likely a favorable choice if a couple is looking for the most flexible and informal process available; mediation requires fewer people to be involved and tends to have fewer required procedures. Also, by virtue of involving potentially fewer people, mediation could potentially be more time-efficient and less expensive than collaborative divorce; the more calendars and wallets are involved, the higher costs in time, convenience, and dollars could be for the spouses. On the other hand, if your divorce seems likely to become difficult or contested, collaborative divorce may be preferable; attorneys involved are likely to have more power and involvement through this method, and having professionals available to guide you can be extremely beneficial.


Of course, all divorce options have strengths and weaknesses. When it comes to downsides, the difference between mediation and collaborative divorce is most visible. If collaborative divorce is unsuccessful, the collaborative attorneys are required to withdraw, meaning the spouses would need to start all over again with new legal representation and new advising professionals. Mediation does not come packaged with this risk. However, if mediation is unsuccessful, you may still need to acquire new legal representation. Additionally, the failure of mediation can result in a more contested or contentious process later on.

At Schwartz | White in Boca Raton, experienced and qualified family law attorneys are ready to assist you with your divorce or separation, no matter which method your and your spouse would choose. Call 561-391-9943 to speak to an experienced family lawyer about your case today.

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