Collaborative Practice vs Mediation: Which One Is Right for You?

separating couple engaged in a serious discussion about collaborative law versus mediation during a divorce

A peaceful divorce or separation can be hard to come by. There may be times during the separation process where it can feel impossible to resolve issues with your spouse. However, reaching a solution is not impossible. At Galbraith Family Law, we are committed to resolving family conflict with the heart. We aim to find peaceful solutions for those going through a divorce or separation. A couple of different ways we go about this is by using mediation and collaborative practice with our clients.

While mediation and collaborative practice share similar goals, there are many differences between them. In this article, we will review the difference between these two practices, and which one may be better for your specific situation.

Let us start by defining mediation and collaborative practice.

What is Mediation? 

Mediation is when a neutral third party (or mediator) meets with both parties to help guide and assist them in negotiating an agreement. It is usually done without lawyers present. The mediator does not offer any legal advice and does not act as a judge. They do not tell the involved parties what they should do. Instead, the mediator is there to help both parties understand each other’s points of view.

It is good to think of a mediator as a resolution coach. They are there to ask you questions and uncover the main concerns that underlie both client’s positions on each issue. Once these concerns are uncovered, the clients work together to come up with solutions to eventually find a resolution.

After the mediation session, the mediator will write a report. It is not a legally binding document. You then hire lawyers to turn your agreement into a legally binding agreement called a separation agreement.

What is Collaborative Practice? 

Collaborative practise includes both the parties and their lawyers during the negotiation process. During this process, settlement is a top priority for everyone. Participants commit to respecting each other and work towards shared goals without having to go to family court. Collaborative practice lawyers have similar training to mediators. However, they work with their clients and one another to ensure a balanced and positive settlement process.

With collaborative practise, you will share a family coach who is there to help you work through emotional issues. They will also help you prepare for negotiations and help create a parenting plan if necessary. You will also speak with a financial specialist who will help resolve any financial issues. Family professionals and financial professionals have skills like a mediator. They work to discover the core concerns involved with your issues to help you find a resolution.

One benefit of working with a family professional and financial professional is that it will help minimize your legal costs. Their hourly rates are significantly less than a lawyer’s hourly rates and the cost is split between the spouses.

The Differences Between Mediation and Collaborative Practice

Unlike collaborative practice lawyers, mediators are neutral. Collaborative practice lawyers advocate for you and assist you in reaching long-term solutions. At the same time, your lawyer will also consider your spouse’s core concerns and ensure that the agreement will be acceptable for both of you.

The other main difference is that in collaborative practice, the family professional and financial professional will help educate you. Throughout the process, they will provide you with as much information as they can so you and your spouse can make the most informed decisions. The family professional will help you navigate the emotions you will experience during your divorce. This will help to prepare you for negotiations.

Also, collaborative practice lawyers sign an agreement stating that if you go to family court, the process ends. Meaning if you go to court, the collaborative practice lawyers and others involved are disqualified from participating in your case. Whereas if the mediation process does not reach an agreement and you go to court, you can choose to keep the same lawyer. The disqualification clause in collaborative cases ensures that everyone is committed to settling your case instead of just preparing for court.

The similarities between mediation and collaborative practice

While they are different in a few ways, mediation and collaborative practice are also very similar. They are similar in the following ways:

  • During mediation and collaborative practice, core concerns are reviewed and considered in the resolution.
  • Both processes are future-focused. Meaning that there is more focus on finding a solution rather than finding blame.
  • You will find new and easier ways to communicate with your spouse and preserve the relationship.
  • You and your spouse have more control over the resolution process and outcome of your separation or divorce. In family court, that control lies with the judge.
  • Mediation and collaborative practise are both private practices. The court is open to the public.
  • Both processes are also less costly than going to court. Both financially and emotionally.
  • Normally both processes are faster at resolving issues compared to family court.
  • Both processes support respectful communication and open conversation

Both mediation and collaborative practice rely on a voluntary exchange of information and commitment. Mediators and Collaborative practitioners have the same goal; finding the most amicable solution to your issues. They are both problem-solvers who are there to help find the best solution that will benefit everyone involved. To help determine which process is best for you, speak with your family lawyer.

If you have questions, contact Galbraith Family Law today! 

Each and every day at Galbraith Family Law, we see first-hand how effective collaborative practice and mediation are for our clients. By keeping our clients out of court, we can help ease the divorce and separation process for the people we work with. Finding an amicable solution for your family law issues is our specialty, and it is possible to do so with mediation and collaborative practice. You do not necessarily have to go to court.

To work with one of our skilled collaborative family lawyers and to learn more about these processes, book a consultation with us. Give us a call at one of our five locations throughout Ontario to get started. For our Toronto offices call 647-370-8965, for our Newmarket office call 289-210-4692 or you can reach us at our Barrie office at 705-230-2734. Whenever you are ready, we are here for you.

Brian Galbraith

Brian Galbraith is the owner and founder of Galbraith Family Law Professional Corporation. Brian is known in the legal community for his commitment to efficiently practicing family law using technology and streamlining the divorce processes.

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