Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution that is generally ordered in a case filed with the court. The collaborative family law process is designed to resolve disputes without court involvement.
Many people use the terms interchangeably, but as you can see they are quite different. When divorce is on the horizon and children are involved mediation or a collaborative process may avoid the scorched-earth litigation that can leave permanent scars.
How does mediation work?
After filing initial divorce paperwork, a judge will generally order you to attend mediation as a first step to resolve disagreements.
In mediation, you and your soon-to-be-ex spouse explain the issues to the mediator. Maybe you cannot agree on a workable child visitation schedule or what to do with your old home.
A mediator is an impartial third party who generally has experience assisting other couples resolve divorce-related problems. By clarifying interests and discussing options, the mediator may be able to help you reach a resolution. When this happens, you will sign an agreement that the mediator files with the court.
It is not necessary to solve every issue during mediation. But reaching agreement on the lesser ones reduces the number for a judge. Mediation allows you more freedom and control. For instance, you may be able to negotiate a creative custody schedule that meets your unique family needs.
Collaborative family law
The Texas Family Code contains a provision titled the "Collaborative Family Law Act" that went into effect in 2011. When you want to keep a divorce amicable, this is one path.
Each spouse works with his or her own collaborative law attorney. A collaborative family law participant agreement is signed to start the process. The collaborative process is concluded with a signed agreement.
You cannot be ordered to participate in a collaborative law process like with mediation. And starting down the collaborative process does not mean that you are unable to terminate the process and continue to court.
When you have made the decision to separate and/or divorce, speak with a family law attorney as soon as possible to learn your options. And recognize that mediation is not the same thing as collaborative family law.