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Should I choose mediation or collaborative law?

Deciding to end your marriage is not a choice that most people make easily. It can often take months or even years for the final decision to be made. It's an emotional upheaval that most people are simply not quite ready to deal with when the idea first comes to mind.

Once you've made up your mind, though, and take the first few steps, you may wonder what the best way to divorce really is. You've heard that mediation and collaborative law are easier, less expensive and take less time. You're not really sure what the difference between the two is.

Here are the most common differences:

-- In mediation, a neutral, third-party mediator will work with both parties to identify the financial and legal issues the divorce needs to resolve.

-- In collaborative law, each party is represented by an attorney and experts may be brought in to help the parties reach an agreement.

-- If you are not able to reach an agreement in mediation or collaborative law, the case will go in front of a judge. However, in a collaborative divorce, the attorneys used before must withdraw from the case and new attorneys must be retained.

-- In mediation, the mediator works for everyone involved. In collaborative law, your attorney will fight for your best interests, as well as the best interests of your children.

As you can see, there are marked differences in the two. If you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are unable to remain civil during mediation or work together at all, then you may not be able to use either process.

This type of divorce is much easier on everyone involved rather than a litigated divorce where a judge makes the decisions.

Source: equitablemediation.com, "Collaborative Divorce vs Mediation," accessed Jan. 25, 2016

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