Often, when I introduce Collaborative Law to people, the response is, “Oh, that sounds like mediation.” 

And, that’s a good place to start because the two methods for approaching conflict have similarities:

  • Preserve confidentiality.
  • Designed to maintain a productive relationship between the parties and benefit the children.
  • Responsibility for the outcome to the family (as opposed to the court).
  • Cost less than litigation.
  • Allow “interest-based” solutions to matters in dispute
  • They are voluntary.

But, I think of Collaborative Law as mediation on steroids.  It differs from mediation in several ways:

Team Approach

In mediation, a single, third party facilitator helps both parties involved reach an agreement.  In Collaborative Law, a lot more expertise is leveraged because a professional team is working with the couple to identify the needs and priorities of all family members as well as where there is disagreement. The team is:

  • An attorney for each party
  • A neutral financial advisor (where applicable)
  • A neutral mental health professional or mediator who guides the entire team through the process 
  • Other relevant, allied professionals (like a child specialist)

Each team member is certified in Collaborative Law and experienced in the process, so that they can work efficiently together to achieve resolution that results in a carefully thought-out settlement.

This also enables couples to have informed guidance from the beginning.  Meaning, the overwhelming legal issues, finances and emotional stress can be addressed with the help of the team, from the start.


Collaborative Law has an extra safeguard against litigation. The attorneys, the parties and other participating professionals enter into an agreement that sets specific guidelines for the process and disqualifies all the professionals involved from divorce litigation. (in the event that a settlement cannot be reached)  This ensures the professionals are focused on the process, while the parties can focus on their goals and interests without the distraction or threat of possible litigation.  Whereas, with mediation, there is a greater risk that one or both parties will pull in an attorney at any point who will be focused on litigation or increase the likelihood of it.


With a team focused on specific goals, there is more momentum towards the accomplishment of those goals. Emotional challenges are still addressed, but head-on in the context of larger goals. Harmful effects of litigation are avoided.  While issue resolution and family growth are fostered.

Unhindered Communication

Mediation model is far better than the traditional model of litigation. With a single mediator involved, one or both parties may be working outside of the dialogue and engaging other experts in separate conversations. With the collaborative model, the dialogue occurs among the entire team, together, and an exchange of ideas occurs in an open forum, which helps to minimize the possibility of one party or the other pursuing a hidden agenda.

Mediation can be a great option for certain parties, but these are some of the key benefits of Collaborative Law that set it apart and can produce positive results in a tough situation.

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