Mediation and Collaborative Process: what is the difference?

While both are similar in that they are less adversarial than going to court, keep the parties in control of the process and preserve relationships, particularly those of co-parents, they are also different.
Mediation is a facilitated and voluntary process with a neutral third party who does not take sides in the dispute. He or she helps family members listen to each other as they negotiate their own agreements. Parties make no agreement regarding using court. A mediator, regardless of background, does not give legal advice or provide therapy. The Mediation Association of Colorado ( has standards for Professional Mediators.

Collaborative Practice has three key elements:
1. The agreement not to go to court and withdrawal of both attorneys if case should go to trial.
2. The voluntary and free exchange of information.
3. A negotiation centered process that aims to seek agreement for both parties’ shared goals.

Collaborative Divorce may utilize other professionals, in addition to the clients’ attorneys, should the parties and their attorneys agree that such professionals would aid in reaching an agreement. Such professionals may include mediators, coaches, child specialists, and financial specialists. Following the standards of their respective professions, these potential team members may include mediators, coaches, child specialists, and financial specialists.

Mediation and Collaborative Practice are separate processes, both effective in helping families resolve conflicts and make decisions in a safe environment. They also work well together when the mediator is part of the collaborative team, providing neutral guidance to the team, freeing other team members to focus on their area of expertise. When this happens, the clients get individual legal advice and the assistance of a trained mediator to help them reach an agreement.

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