In DuPage and Kane County, Collaborative Divorce is becoming more prevalent. Clients want an alternative to stressful, expensive “court wars.” Many clients ask me about divorce mediation (I am a certified mediator for DuPage County). Some cases, however, might benefit from a new approach to mindful, non-litigated divorce…Collaborative Law.
What is the difference between Collaborative Practice and Mediation?
In mediation, the mediator facilitates the negotiations of the disputing parties and tries to help them settle their case. However, the mediator cannot give either party legal advice, and cannot be an advocate for either side. If there are lawyers for the parties, they may or may not be present at the mediation sessions, but if they are not present, the parties can consult their counsel between mediation sessions. Once an agreement is reached, a draft of the settlement terms is usually prepared by the mediator for review and editing by the parties and counsel.
Collaborative Law was designed to allow clients to have their lawyers with them during the negotiation process, while maintaining the same commitment to settlement as the sole agenda. It is the job of the lawyers, who have received training similar to the training that mediators receive in interest-based negotiation, to work with their own clients and one another to assure that the process stays balanced, positive and productive.
Both Collaborative Practice and mediation rely on the voluntary and free exchange of information and a commitment to resolutions that respect the parties’ shared goals. If mediation does not result in a settlement, the parties may choose to use their counsel in litigation, if this is consistent with the scope of representation upon which the client and lawyer have agreed. In Collaborative Practice, the lawyers and parties sign an agreement, which aligns everyone’s interests in the direction of resolution, and specifically provides that the collaborative attorneys will be disqualified from participating in litigation if the collaborative process fails.