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Comparison of Co-Mediation, Collaborative Law and Other Options

You have options for how to resolve your divorce or other family law case.

You can work out an agreement with the other person, write up a settlement agreement and prepare and file the necessary court papers yourself, without any attorney involvement. You can sit down with a mental health professional (MHP) to help you prepare a parenting plan (a special kind of settlement agreement addressing timesharing with the children and other children’s issues). You can sit with an attorney for a consultation or consultations, and the attorney can advise you as you move forward handling the case yourself. You can hire an attorney to prepare paperwork for you that you take and file in court yourself. 

If you and your spouse have come to an agreement, you can hire an attorney to represent you, write up the agreement, file all of the paperwork, schedule the final hearing for the case, and go with you to court. Lots of options – it can make sense to sit down with an attorney to figure out the best option for your case. Often, how you decide to proceed with the divorce can be as important as the other issues in the matter.

This page will focus on comparing Co-Mediation and Collaborative Law.

In my opinion, one way to think of the options is that Collaborative Law (as compared to Co-Mediation or Mediation) provides the most supportive and structured process to guide parties through a case or when there is conflict; or if the parties in general want the safety and security of a process with more established procedures, and with each person having a collaborative attorney representing them. Co-Mediation is a process that is usually less expensive than Collaborative Law, still with many of the advantages, but with a bit more flexibility and more “ala carte” choices. Mediation is less expensive than Co-Mediation especially for more simple cases, but with less support by not having an MHP present. The flip-side consideration is that you can potentially save money by choosing a process with more support, which can potentially make it easier to settle and arrive at a lasting resolution. For example, it can make a difference having collaboratively trained attorneys present for each client, i.e. attorneys who are looking to help the two of you reach a settlement that works for both of you, but who can also give input and guidance – basically regarding what’s within the range of what is reasonable under Florida law. The two of you are not required to make decisions based on Florida law or how the issues often are decided, but sometimes that guidance can help.

This is one of the big differences between Collaborative Law and Co-Mediation — in a Collaborative Divorce or other collaborative law case each of you has your own attorney. In a collaborative case, you will meet with your attorney to discuss the legal issues and to advise you at the case is beginning, the attorney attends the collaborative law meetings with you, and is there as your attorney throughout the case (we usually try to have as much of the discussion in a collaborative case happen during the team meetings with everyone present, versus your meeting separately with your attorney to separately come up with negotiating positions).

Although you can choose in Co-Mediation to have attorneys you bring to the mediation sessions (or advise you outside of the sessions), you can choose to attend without attorneys. That means that a significant difference between Collaborative Law and Co-Mediation is that in Collaborative Law cases sometime your attorney is the one speaking or providing input, or it is more of an attorney driven process by virtue of the attorneys providing legal advice; versus your and the other party’s voice in Co-Mediation.

In addition to the cost savings, some people prefer to not have attorneys involved, and to have it be them and their spouse or other parent be the ones speaking for themselves during the meetings. In Co-Mediation one mediator is an attorney, but does not serve in the role of an attorney during mediation sessions – as a mediator I am not representing either you or the other person; I can provide information regarding Florida laws and rules, but can’t give legal advice. A way to think of this distinction is that a mediator is permitted to give information from his or her fund of knowledge – for example I can tell you what Florida law is regarding the legal standard to determine whether one parent can relocate with a child, but can’t give you legal advice or a legal opinion regarding the likely result in your case, or best way to proceed with your case in court. In mediation, I am there as a neutral, not to represent you or the other person.

One thing that is similar for Co-Mediation and Collaborative Divorce or Collaborative Law is the presence of the MHP. An MHP has the expertise and skills to best manage the relationships in the room, with the attorney in Co-mediation to assist in being sure each person’s concerns/issues are addressed, and also provide expertise in providing legal advice, coming up with options and writing up the settlement agreements. And the attorney as co-mediator or in collaborative law is there to balance out the process – helps make clear that this is not therapy. In both Co-Mediation and Collaborative Law, the co-mediators or collaborative attorney’s, MHP and financial neutral will have experience working together as a team, which is important in making things work.

Whether in Collaborative Law or Co-Mediation, you will have the benefit of not having an attorney or attorneys involved who are not necessarily, and who often by design intentionally are not seeking a fair result, and possibly not even a result based completely on the truth. I was involved once in a case and in response to statement of mine during negotiations that “the truth of the matter is…..”, the response of the other party’s attorney was “What does the truth have to do with it?” This of course might have been hyperbole, and there is usually more than one side to a story, and maybe not one “truth”, but there is definitely a difference between being involved in a process where the goal is to arrive an agreement that works for everyone and in which the professionals are trained to attempt to do that, versus an adversarial court process.

Please call me at (954) 636-7498 to discuss Collaborative Divorce or Co-Mediation for your family law matter.


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