Every divorce is unique. Each divorce is made unique by each couple's unique mix of children, medical issues, bills, assets, retirement plans, and relationships. As discussed in a previous post, there are four "methods" to divorce: do-it-yourself, mediation, collaborative, and litigated divorce. The last post discussed DIY and litigated divorce. This post will discuss the pros and cons of mediated and collaborative divorce.
In mediation, the couple hires a professional mediator (not always an attorney) to act as a neutral go-between. The mediator works with the couple to arrive at an agreeable divorce settlement. A mediator is useful because the extra pair of eyes can ensure that you address issues you may not initially consider. But remember, the mediator is neutral, he will not help you or your spouse over the other. This requires you to represent and advocate for yourself.
Mediation can work, and when it does, it dramatically reduces divorce expenses. But, mediation only works if both people want it to work. In a divorce, that isn't always possible. In those situations, mediation only serves to increase costs as couples inevitably end up litigating their disagreements.
The other divorce method is collaborative. In collaborative divorce, the spouses each hire their own attorneys who work together to arrive at a solution. Collaborative divorce involves both attorneys working together to arrive at a mutually agreeable divorce settlement. Collaborative divorce, like mediation, can work if the couple wants it to. But the instant one side begins to withhold information, the collaborative process breaks down.
It is important that you keep in mind the inherent limitations of these alternative divorce methods. They can and do work, but they do not operate efficiently in every scenario.
Ending a marriage is a complicated endeavor. You don't need to do it all on your own. A lawyer, even if you do not retain one to represent you, can guide you through the process. You don't want to risk leaving an issue unresolved or an asset undivided. Post-divorce agreements, while possible, are more complicated. It is far easier to address everything all at once. A lawyer can ensure that your divorce fully addresses all of the issues.