When a couple is considering divorcing in the state of New Hampshire, they should first think about all of their divorce options. Divorcing parties have several methods that they can utilize to settle disputes and come to a divorce agreement. The most common type of divorce is litigation; however that does not necessarily make it the most desirable or most effective method. While litigation may still be the most common method, more and more couples are looking for less adversarial ways to settle their divorces. In 2007 NBC News talked about two alternative methods for settling divorces: mediation and collaborative divorce.
In mediation, couples will sit down with a trained mediator who will facilitate a conversation in an attempt to get the parties to talk about their issues and reach compromises. Mediation does not involve attorneys and the goal is for couples to work out together to resolve the issues in their divorce. Often, judges will order a couple undergo mediation before moving on to litigation. In a collaborative divorce, couples meet with attorneys and a team of professionals to discuss their issues and find amicable solutions to their divorce disputes.
Based on these descriptions, mediation and collaborative divorce may seem very similar and they are to a few extents. They both, for example, encourage couples to work together to sort out their issues including parental rights and responsibilities, division of property, assets and debts, retirement benefits and spousal support. Both methods also allow couples to avoid the court system and work with trained professionals instead. Additionally, choosing either mediation or collaborative divorce over traditional litigation will usually save the couple time, money and, in many situations, the emotional stress of having a court battle.
The Differences Between Mediation and Collaborative Divorce
Aside from these factors, mediation and collaborative divorce are actually very different for a number of reasons. First of all, while mediation is often performed before the litigation process, collaborative divorce is an entirely separate process. In fact, before beginning the collaborative divorce process, all parties, including the attorneys, must sign an agreement to avoid litigation. If an divorce settlement cannot be reached during the collaborative process and parties would like to pursue litigation, the attorneys working with them must resign from the case. This is to ensure that the end goal for everyone involved in the process is to reach an amicable agreement.
Another difference between the two divorce methods is that a mediator cannot offer advice. In mediation, couples are joined by a trained mediator. This person's job is to help them settle their disputes and reach an amicable divorce agreement. However, the mediator is not allowed to take sides or offer advice and must remain completely neutral throughout the process. Additionally, the mediator could be anyone meaning they may have little to no actual legal knowledge. In a collaborative divorce, both parties are required to have their own divorce attorneys present. While the attorneys work to facilitate conversation and help couples reach compromises, they can also offer their opinions to clients and provide them with legal advice.
Mediation is also a voluntary process that can be ended at any time. If one party feels overwhelmed or frustrated, they can simply stop the process and start litigation. While couples voluntarily choose to use collaborative divorce, the process is more structured and designed to help couples through their challenges rather than allow them to quit and resort to litigation. As mentioned earlier, parties involved in the collaborative divorce process must first agree to avoid litigation. When parties are encouraged not to quit the collaborative process and providing them with the support that they need, they stand a greater chance of success in reaching compromises.
Finally, a big difference between mediation and collaborative divorce is the professionals involved. Mediation involves only one other person, an impartial mediator. Collaborative divorce, on the other hand, involves a number of professionals. In addition to each party's attorney, advisers such as financial planners, counselors and even parenting experts will be made available during different phases of the process. Unlike mediation, these professionals are all able to give their opinions and advice in order to direct parties into reaching agreements that are in everyone's best interest.
Getting The Results You Want
Many couples have been successful in using these non-combative forms of conflict resolution during their divorce. In 2007, NBC News interviewed a couple, David Boyle and ex-wife Sarah Smith, who used collaborative divorce. Boyle had this to say about the process:
"Because this process went so smoothly and we didn't have a lot of baggage as a result, now the tone is set for raising the kids," he said. "We get along. We work together to make it happen."
If you would like more information about mediation or collaborative divorce, contact a New Hampshire divorce attorney right away.