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Collaborative Law Vs. Mediation

Collaborative divorce is a relatively new concept to many people. It is a process designed as early intervention in disputes to be used instead of costly litigation. Because of it's similarities with mediation, however, many people assume that collaborative law and mediation are the same thing. While it's true that the two are similar and both are methods used to resolve disputes in divorce, there are several key differences.

The first, and perhaps most important, difference is that with a collaborative divorce both parties have legal counsel present at all times. Each party's attorney is present to manage conflict and ensure that their clients are aware of his/her legal rights and obligations. In mediation, the parties are not represented by attorneys and are therefore negotiating without the benefit of a legal advocate's advice and knowledge.

Secondly, mediation is typically a singular event. A mediator may be given context and background information, but the expectation is that the process with be finished in one day, successfully or not. Collaborative law is a process that needs multiple sessions and allows flexibility for assessment and changes in strategy. There is more opportunity to fine tune the agenda to make sure client's needs are being met.

Finally, the timing of the event is a major difference. Parties typically turn to mediation just before going to trial. They have already spent significant amounts of money to prepare for litigation and are using mediation as a last ditch effort to avoid having a judge decide the outcome. This often makes both parties more adversarial and reluctant to compromise. A collaborative divorce emphasizes resolution and settlement in place of litigation and can help both divorcing parties come to an agreement and preserve a working relationship, something that is invaluable if children are involved.


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When the Florida court decides on the issue of child custody and visitation, the gender of the parents is not considered. For example, a mother will not automatically receive custody of the children just because she is the mother. The judge must only consider what is in the best interests of the child. Florida divorce law requires Shared Parental Responsibility. This means that even though the child may live with one parent, the other parent has equal say in raising the child. Each party must be consulted on the education, health, religion, and discipline of the child. And, if the parties cannot agree on these important issues, the judge will make the decisions.
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