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Mediation vs. Collaborative Divorce in California

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There are a few different methods for divorce negotiations in California. For those interested in avoiding the courtroom, they might want to look into mediation or collaborative divorce. In today’s blog, we will go through the necessary elements of the mediation divorce process and the collaborative divorce process.

Methods for Divorce Negotiations

When filing for divorce, couples may have different ideas on issues like property divisionchild custody, or child support. A judge does not have to be the person to make these decisions, however. In many cases, it makes sense to work out as many issues as possible out of court. Two ways to resolve these issues without court involvement are mediation or collaborative divorce.


In mediation, an impartial person (the mediator) helps spouses reach an agreement they will both accept. The mediator’s job is to talk both parties through negotiations of an agreement. Mediation is a way to resolve divorce or custody disputes that allows spouses the ability to control the outcome. Unlike arbitration or litigation, where a judge or an arbitrator makes the final decision, only the spouses have control of the outcome. The mediators do not make decisions in mediation; they merely facilitate the discussions, and the mediator has no authority to force an agreement.

Typically, mediation covers the following areas:

The mediator is specially trained to help individuals resolve their differences, though it is possible that mediation will not resolve every single issue in the divorce. In such a case, the rest of the decisions will be deferred to a judge. However, during mediation, individuals will prepare for trial in case they do not reach an agreement.

To find a mediator, couples can:

  • check their local telephone directory in the “Mediation” section;
  • search the Internet;
  • contact a community organization;
  • contact their local bar association; or
  • contact the local court to see if they have a mediation panel.

At the end of mediation, the mediator will draft an agreement that is fair to both parties and their children, if they have any. With the help of a mediator, couples can negotiate their own settlement and also learn techniques for resolving future differences.


Collaborative divorce is an alternative approach to negotiating divorce. In a collaborative divorce process, both partners will negotiate an agreement with professional help. They will each hire their own specially trained collaborative lawyer to advise and assist them in negotiating the settlement agreement. A psychologist will also be present, as well as a financial specialist to assist in the financial items involved in the dissolution. If there are children involved in the case, a child life specialist may also be involved to assist in custody and visitation matters. Both partners will share the costs of these expenses. Note that this process is called collaborative because both partners will, with their lawyers, collaborate on the terms of the agreement together.

To begin collaboration, individuals will first meet separately with their own lawyer. Throughout the process, the lawyers and both clients will also meet regularly. In some cases, couples can bring in other people, like child custody specialists or accountants, to help settle the case without having to go in front of a judge. In collaborative divorce, both partners and their lawyers usually sign a contract to agree they will not go to court. If the parties cannot reach a settlement and end up having to go to court, though, the lawyers agree to withdraw from the case, and individuals will have to get a new lawyer or represent themselves.

The collaborative process will involve a series of meetings, and as with meditation, the parties have more control and are involved in the decision-making. Instead of a judge, the couple will make the decisions that will determine their life after divorce.

Let an Experienced Divorce Lawyer Help!

If you are involved in a divorce case, it is important that you understand how you and your partner want to proceed with negotiations. Mediation and collaboration are both good options for those interested in avoiding the courtroom, and they also allow the partners the most decision-making power. These options work best for partners who are still on amicable terms and can expect to communicate openly throughout the case, though. If you are interested in mediation or collaborative divorce, enlist the help of an experienced divorce attorney at Claery & Hammond, LLP today.

Schedule a free consultation with Claery & Hammond, LLP today!


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