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By Dorit Goikhman
Founding Attorney

When navigating the turbulent waters of divorce in the Golden State, couples have several paths to consider. Two of the most talked-about alternatives to traditional litigation are collaborative law and mediation. But what’s the difference between these approaches? And more importantly, which is right for your unique situation? This post dives deep into the nuances of both to help those undergoing a California divorce make an informed decision.

Collaborative Law: A Team Approach to Divorce

1. Defined Process: Collaborative law is a voluntary process in which couples and their respective attorneys commit to resolving disputes without going to court. Both parties sign a contract, agreeing to full disclosure and a transparent process.

2. Team of Experts: Aside from lawyers, a team of professionals may be involved, including financial planners, child specialists, and therapists. This holistic approach ensures all aspects, from finances to emotional well-being, are addressed.

3. Focus on Solutions: The goal is to find mutually beneficial solutions, maintaining respect and open communication throughout.

4. Privacy: Since collaborative law avoids court proceedings, the details of the divorce remain confidential.

Mediation: Facilitated Negotiations

1. Neutral Third-Party: Mediation involves a neutral mediator who helps both parties communicate and negotiate but doesn’t make decisions for them.

2. Flexibility: Mediation offers a more flexible approach, allowing couples to set the pace. Meetings are scheduled based on the couple’s availability and readiness.

3. Solution-Oriented: Like collaborative law, the emphasis is on finding mutually acceptable solutions.

4. Cost-effective: Generally, mediation can be less expensive than collaborative law since fewer professionals are involved.

Key Differences

1. Representation: In collaborative law, both parties have their attorneys present during meetings. In mediation, while couples can have attorneys present, it’s not mandatory.

2. Nature of the Process: Collaborative law is more structured with a team-based approach. Mediation, on the other hand, revolves around the mediator facilitating dialogue between the parties.

3. Failure to Reach an Agreement: If a collaborative law approach fails, the attorneys withdraw from the case, and litigation attorneys may take over. In mediation, if an agreement isn’t reached, couples can choose to litigate or explore other options without changing attorneys.

Which is Right for Your California Divorce?

1. Consider Your Needs: If you believe having a team of specialists will benefit your situation, collaborative law might be the better choice. However, if you’re looking for a more streamlined, cost-effective process, mediation may be more suitable.

2. Complexity of the Divorce: For divorces involving complex assets or multifaceted issues, the comprehensive approach of collaborative law can be advantageous.

3. Communication Levels: Mediation requires both parties to communicate directly with the facilitation of the mediator. If direct communication seems too challenging, collaborative law might offer a more comfortable environment.

4. Cost Concerns: If budget constraints are a concern, mediation might be the preferable option given its typically lower costs.

In Conclusion: Choosing Your Path in California

Both collaborative law and mediation offer constructive alternatives to traditional divorce litigation in California. Your unique circumstances, needs, and preferences will dictate the best route for you. Consulting with professionals experienced in both approaches can further guide your decision, ensuring you choose the path that offers the best chance at a harmonious resolution.

About the Author
Dorit L. Goikhman is a licensed attorney, with years of experience representing clients throughout Central California in business, real estate, and family matters. After witnessing numerous clients spend fortunes and waste years of their lives in litigation, Dorit became interested in mediation and all that it has to offer. Dorit is committed in helping parties work together to obtain a mutually acceptable solution to their disputes at a fair price. Her approach is to keep things simple, confidential, and efficient with the goal of preserving the parties’ assets, reputations, and sanity. If you have any questions regarding this blog, you can contact Dorit here.