In mediation, one neutral mediator sits at a table with you and your partner and tries to help the two of you reach solutions. It's just the three of you, and if there are lawyers involved giving you advice, often those lawyers are not in the room. You may get that advice separately from somewhere else. The lawyers are not, in other words, fully engaged in the process of reaching settlement. And they can advise you to stop mediation and take matters to court, which they sometimes will do. In the collaborative process, every professional is committed solely to help you reach resolution. And it’s not just you and your spouse face-to-face with only one neutral to help you. Each of you has your own lawyer at your side giving you advice, counsel, and advocacy right there in the process. And we also have mental-health professionals who can coach you and your spouse in better communication skills and anger management, and we have mental-health professionals who help the children and help you understand the children's issues. And financial professionals who will help answer all questions. So it’s a much richer process in terms of professional resources. And the lawyers who can often be adversarial by nature are completely aligned with settlement in the collaborative process, whereas in mediation, they may not be.
Pauline H. Tesler is a Certified Family Law Specialist with Tesler, Sandmann & Fishman in San Francisco and Mill Valley, CA. She is also a pioneer in Collaborative Divorce and devotes her practice exclusively to the collaborative model. Tesler is a co-founder of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the author of two books on Collaborative Divorce. She can be reached at (415) 383-5671.