Mediation involves hiring at least one attorney to act as a neutral party. That neutral attorney is trained to help you and the other party in your case negotiate a settlement of all issues that arise from marriage, divorce and other family situations. This neutral will have knowledge of things that all parties should consider when developing a settlement of family issues.
In the typical adversarial setting, you would hire an attorney who speaks for you in court. The other party would also have an attorney that speaks for them in court. Rarely in the adversarial setting are you and the other party speaking to one another about your wishes. It is usually through attorney's that you speak and negotiate with one another. If negotiations through two 3rd parties (your attorneys) do not work, then you are having to leave the decisions about what will happen to you and your family law matter in the hands of a judge. Of course, the judge is to take all the circumstances and information presented by the parties into consideration. However, whatever the decisions made by the judge, you can guarantee that those decisions will not be all the decisions you and/or the other party would have made together.
Even if you and the other party seek a divorce or seek to address other family law matters without an attorney involved, you should be aware of the pitfalls. First, if you and the other party could not agree on something before, it is even less likely that you will agree on it now that you are trying to negotiate a litigated matter. Likely, the judge will end up making decisions for you all if you can not come to an agreement.
Mediation takes some of the "sting" out of family law disputes by setting the stage for you and the other party to speak with each other differently. The neutral helps to facilitate the conversation and ensure that all necessary considerations are made. The ultimate plan for your family law matter is developed through a mediation session or sessions and will be created by you and the other party (not the court or a judge). Your voice will count. In addition, mediation usually helps with maintaining or creating a good working relationship after the family law matter is addressed. This is particularly desirable when you and the other party will need to communicate and interact regarding children, property, or other matters in the future.
After successful mediation is completed, you will then be able to ask the court to rule on an order based on your mediated settlement agreement. If your situation is one that does not require a court order, you may use the agreement without any court intervention.
Collaborative law helps everyone to have there needs and wants heard and participate in the outcomes of a family law dispute. It allows issues to be resolved in a safe, non-adversarial method. Collaborative law is very different from what you may currently know of family law. It is not an adversarial process where one party wins and one party loses. The goal of collaborative law is to create a team approach where a team works to help all parties first articulate their strengths, needs, interest, and goals that will assist in the decision-making process. Then, as a team which includes the parties to the case (traditionally known as the plaintiff and defendant), brainstorming begins with solutions being offered by the parties with support and information from their attorneys and other professionals on the team. The role of an attorney is the same as always in that your attorney will advise, counsel, and educate you on the law. However, the attorney's role may look very different in that the attorney will not do all the talking. You and the other party will be discussing the solutions and ultimately make decisions about what will work for you. This is truly a collaborative process which allows all voices to be heard and gives all parties an opportunity to provide input into the solution.