In this last of three consecutive blog posts on the subject of New Jersey collaborative divorce, we discuss how the collaborative process differs from mediation in the New Jersey divorce context. In the first place, mediation involves the use of a neutral third party, who facilitates negotiations and the settlement of disputes between the parties. In the collaborative divorce process, there in effect is no referee: the parties and their respective lawyers sit around a conference table, for example, and work out the agreement themselves. Another important difference between mediation and the collaborative process is that, should the mediation fail, the parties can proceed to the traditional divorce process with the lawyers who represented them during the mediation process. That is generally helpful, since those lawyers are already familiar with the issues, particularly which issues are still relevant and which caused the mediation to fail. With collaborative divorce, however, should the process fail to produce a settlement, the collaborative lawyers must withdraw their representation and the parties then proceed to the traditional process either pro se or with new attorneys. There are also different philosophical orientations which animate each process. For example, a mediator in a mediation process remains neutral throughout the process, and typically refrains from suggesting an outcome with respect to any discrete issue involved in the divorce. Under the collaborative process, though each lawyer remains an advocate for their respective clients, they are also advocates for a fair and expedient settlement. Accordingly, lawyers in the collaborative context will suggest alternative settlement scenarios in an effort to reach a mutually satisfactory overall settlement. If you are about to go through a divorce in New Jersey, and are not sure which process is right for you and your spouse, it may help to talk to a competent attorney experienced in New Jersey family law matters.
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