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How is collaborative law different from mediation?

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to traditional divorces settled in court. The purpose of ADR is to come to divorce agreements outside of the courtroom in a more peaceful and mutual manner. One of the more well-known ADR methods is mediation. However, collaborative law is a similar method to mediation that could be another option for you if you're considering ADR for your divorce.

Just what is the difference between collaborative law and mediation? What are the advantages and disadvantages of these methods?

What is mediation?

Mediation involves a third party that assists with divorce negotiations. The spouses and the third party meet in a neutral place outside of court to discuss all the agreements that must be made. The third party helps to settle any disputes that arise or offer other solutions to a problem. The third party may also relay information between the spouses and help draft the final agreement once negotiations are finished.


• Quicker and less expensive than traditional litigation

• Less stress than traditional litigation

• Less hostility during and after the divorce

• Neutral party is present to resolve disputes that arise


• Both parties must be willing to use this method

• Complicated legal matters may be hard to resolve without legal help

• No focus on who is at fault in an issue, if proving fault is a concern

What is collaborative law?

Collaborative law differs from mediation in a few ways. The main difference is that no third party is involved.

In collaborative law, both spouses have their own attorney that accompanies them to discuss agreements with the other party. Each spouse also meets with their attorney privately about what they would like out of the negotiation and what they are willing to compromise so that the attorney understands their situation. Like in mediation, negotiations are held in a neutral space outside of a courtroom, and the goal is to reach a mutual agreement through discussion.

Attorneys involved in collaborative law sign a contract saying they will no longer be involved in the case if it gets taken to court. This means that, if an agreement cannot be reached and the case goes to court in traditional litigation, the spouses would have to seek other lawyers.


• Quicker and less expensive than traditional litigation

•· Less stress than traditional litigation

• Less hostility during and after the divorce

• Legal help available for complicated matters

• You have an advocate on your side, helping you negotiate the terms you want


• Both parties must be willing to do it

• Requires high willingness to negotiate, since no neutral party is present

• Requires willingness to discuss and resolve disputes without a neutral party present

• New lawyers needed if an agreement can't be reached and the case goes to court

Which one should I choose?

The method that will work best for you depends on your case and your own personal needs/concerns. Overall, ADR is going to be a quicker and less stressful process than traditional litigation, regardless of whether you choose mediation or collaborative law. It will also be less expensive in general, as long as an agreement can be reached without beginning an ADR method and then taking the case to court later.

There are other methods of ADR besides these two that could be the right fit for your situation as well. Weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each and see what method you are both willing to use. You can always contact a family law attorney if you have questions about your particular case and what methods would be best for you.

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Haller & Imbarlina, P.C.
20120 Route 19, Suite 208
Gigliotti Plaza
Cranberry Township, PA 16066

Phone: 724-935-0820
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Haller & Imbarlina, P.C.