Lawyers and judges have been aware for several decades that the process of divorce exacts an intense emotional toll on the parties and often their children. In an effort to minimize the pain of the standard divorce process, the people who drive the process – lawyers and judges – have devised two alternative processes that can go a long way toward reducing the emotional cost of divorce: mediation and collaborative divorce. Both share certain steps, but in many ways they are very different.
A mediated divorce uses the services of a person trained in non-partisan dispute resolution. This person, called a mediator, usually meets with the parties and their attorneys to review the issues in the divorce. The mediator does not make any decisions but instead guides the parties through their disputes, such as child support and custody, division of marital assets and spousal support. If the parties reach an agreement, the agreement is reduced to writing, signed by the parties, and submitted to the judge for approval. If the parties are not able to reach an agreement, the case is returned to the trial docket for final resolution.
A collaborative divorce is predicated on the mutual agreement of the parties to explore their differences in good faith and search for solutions to each party’s core concerns. A collaborative divorce requires attorneys who understand the process and who are willing to withdraw if a resolution is not possible. The parties must also make full disclosure of their assets and liabilities. Family lawyers who practice collaborative divorce must inform their clients of all options available to reach an agreement on the terms of the divorce without going to trial. Collaborative divorces in Michigan are govern by MCL 691.1331, the state’s version of the Uniform Collaborative Law established by the Uniform Law Commission. A successful collaborative divorce depends upon the parties’ willingness to commit themselves to collaborate in good faith and with every intention of resolving their differences without a court trial.
Choosing the option best suited for you
Anyone who is contemplating terminating their marriage should consult an experienced family lawyer for advice. An experienced family attorney can provide recommendations on the likely effectiveness of mediation v. collaborative divorce.