How do Mediation and Collaborative Divorce Differ in Virginia?
You’ve made the decision to end your marriage, and now you have to decide how to proceed. You may have heard about options like mediation and collaborative divorce, but you may not be very familiar with either one. Before making any decision on how to proceed with a Virginia divorce, it’s important to understand how each option works. It’s also important to speak with a Virginia divorce attorney who can provide detailed legal advice that is applicable to your particular situation.
What is a Virginia Divorce Mediation?
A divorce mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) wherein the mediator (who is ta neutral third party) will guide the couple through the process of resolving their outstanding issues and distribution of assets. Couples who choose to mediate are not required to have their own attorneys, but it’s certainly recommended. Mediation without representation is often used for couples who have very few assets and no children.
The mediator will get familiar with your case and determine what subjects need to be resolved so he or she can facilitate settlement negotiations. The mediator is like the peacemaker and will help guide negotiations to keep things moving. He or she will take your unique circumstances into account and work to develop a mutually acceptable agreement that addresses all important topics like alimony, child support, division of assets and debts, and more. The mediator will also draft a majority of the required paperwork, including the Memorandum of Understanding that will detail out the terms of your divorce agreement.
What is Collaborative Divorce?
With the collaborative divorce process in Virginia, it is essentially a hybrid between a divorce mediation and a standard divorce with attorneys for each side. Both sides would need to hire a Virginia divorce attorney who is familiar with the collaborative law process. Both parties will need to sign participation agreements confirming they are committed to the process and will use the techniques presented to negotiate the outstanding issues in a divorce.
Both sides meet multiple times with their attorneys present along with any other experts that are necessary. Commonly used experts include forensic accountants, mental health professionals, and more.
The biggest difference between mediation and collaborative divorce is that both attorneys are prohibited from representing the spouses if the case does not resolve. This means that if there are still one or two outstanding issues on which an agreement cannot be reached, you would have to hire a new attorney and start all over with a “traditional” divorce. This would obviously cause a delay and increase your legal fees significantly. Another important difference is the fact that you and your ex will share experts in a collaborative divorce. Rather than paying for two separate forensic accountants, for example, you can share one expert and split the costs in the collaborative divorce process.
Retaining a Virginia Divorce Attorney
If you have questions on divorce mediation and/or collaborative divorce in Virginia, it’s important to speak with a skilled Leesburg Divorce attorney right away. Contact Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC at 703-997-4982 to schedule a consultation.