How Is Mediation Different Than Collaborative Law?

November 24, 2020 O'Connor Family Law Mediation

In stark contrast to taking a path of litigation, mediation and collaborative law are both attractive alternatives to resolving a family law dispute. Each of these methods take similar approaches that require voluntary and cooperative efforts from both parties to reach an agreement, but there are still some important differences that you should be aware of when trying to make a decision on which path is right for you. Offering assistance in mediation and collaborative law cases is only half our job. By leveraging the combined experience of our team, we have over 35 years of family law experience to draw from to help you make that choice from a position of confidence.


With mediation, the mediator is a neutral guide who does not take sides. It is a more informal process and can be very flexible depending upon the needs of the parties. Although it is encouraged, there is no requirement that parties hire an individual attorney in addition to the mediator. Whether or not you retain a personal attorney for yourself in mediation is up to you. By having someone in your corner, you gain the benefit of the attorney’s insight as to how the negotiations are forming and how certain terms might play out down the road.

However, sometimes introducing an attorney into mediation can increase tensions. By keeping the focus between the parties and the mediator, mediation can become the most efficient and inexpensive way for parties to come to an agreement. Mediation achieves this by allowing the parties to discuss their wants and concerns on the issue at hand. The neutral party hears both sides and works to bring them together on common ground to resolve disputes. The focus is not simply on reaching an agreement, it is also in helping both parties understand the other’s perspective which can often lead to more workable agreements in the long run. Mediation is often more successful when the parties are open to listening and being honest about their wants and needs.


With collaborative law, each side must hire their own attorney who has been certified in collaborative law and then jointly choose a neutral collaborative coach who has also been appropriately trained. Each side must be willing to enter into a “no court” agreement, which means they are committed to working through the issues without initiating litigation. By promoting good faith negotiations, the “no court” agreement provides incentives (or sometimes disincentives) to everyone involved to work towards a resolution, even if negotiations get tough.

In a collaborative law effort, the parties, the attorneys, and the neutral collaborative coach participate in every meeting. Additionally, the coach may recommend bringing in other collaborative professionals such as therapists or accountants to help the parties work through issues specific in their case. If the parties remain unable to reach an agreement, they cannot thereafter utilize their collaborative law attorneys within future litigation and will need to hire new representation. Although collaborative law is usually more efficient and less expensive than litigation, it does usually cost more than mediation simply because hiring an attorney and the collaborative coach is required.

Collaborative law could be a good option for those whose cases involve complicated financial information or other issues that could require a specialist. It could be a great option for people who really want to come to agreements, even if they know they are not the best at communicating or getting along. So long as there is a commitment to the process, that can help rise above the other difficulties within this process. Collaborative law is a more personal way of handling a matter outside of court, and with the help of a team, it creates a very cohesive and almost holistic approach and attitude that can stay with you as long as your final Judgment does.


If you are seeking a collaborative law attorney or a mediator, call us today. We understand that litigation is not for everyone and look forward to helping you resolve your family law issues in an alternative approach that can get you a great result.