As a Divorce Mediator and Collaborative Law Attorney I am often asked what is the difference between mediation and collaborative law? And then I am asked “which process is going to be better for me?” The answer is not one-size- fits all. There are many factors to take into consideration. Each participant in the process has different needs, and couples have different needs and communication styles. I find the following chart useful to describe the both processes and how they differ.  It is most important to speak with a professional divorce mediator and a collaborative law attorney to get your questions answered and to assist you in choosing with process best meets your needs.

What is the difference between mediation and collaborative law?



-Husband, Wife, Mediator.

-Parties can be referred to professionals outside of the process to assist with particular issues such as financial advice, mental health support or evaluations.


-Husband, Wife, Husband’s Lawyer,  Wife’s Lawyer meet together at “4-way” conferences.

-May also have Child specialist, Process Facilitator, Financial specialist, coach for either party or other professional to assist.


-Determined by number of sessions and complexity of issues.

-Generally less expensive than Collaborative because the participants pay for one Mediator.

-Usually less expensive than  litigation. The participants have  more control over time and costs.

-Determined by number of meetings, number of professionals involved, and complexity of issues.

-Generally more expensive than mediation because two attorneys are present at every meeting and the additional professionals are paid for attendance at meetings as well.

-Usually less expensive than litigation because it is more efficient and the parties have control over time and costs.


-Participants may hire an attorney to represent them for advice during the mediation, or after the mediation to review the agreement.

-An attorney is hired to complete the legal paperwork necessary to complete the process.

-Each party has their own attorney present throughout the collaborative process.

-All meetings are “4-way” conferences with both parties and their attorneys present.

-The attorney’s complete the legal paperwork necessary to complete the process.

How do I decide what process is best for me?
There are many factors that impact which process is best for an individual. You should analyze your ability and your spouse’s (other participant’s) ability to negotiate honestly and openly. You should assess your need to have an attorney present with you at the negotiation table, your ability to communicate your needs and wants and to advocate for yourself, and the funds available for the divorce/separation process.

ALWAYS take the time to meet with a mediator and a collaborative attorney to discuss your questions about process and to get assistance choosing the process that is best for you.

Julie V Mersereau, Esq. is an experienced Divorce Mediator and Collaborative Family Law Attorney- Contact info:; 585-377-5487