Comparison of
The Collaborative Process, Mediation, and Litigation

Collaborative Process Mediation Litigation

You and your spouse control the process and make final decisions

Mediator assists you and your spouse in reaching agreements

Judges control process and makes final decisions


Both contractually pledge mutual respect and openness

It is assumed that both will be respectful to each other

Court process is based on an adversarial system


Costs are manageable, usually less expensive than litigation; team model is a financially efficient use of neutrals

Costs are manageable, but provides the least amount of professional support

Costs are unpredictable and can escalate rapidly including frequency of post-judgement litigation


Both spouses create the timetable

Both spouses create the timetable

Judge sets the timetable; often delays given crowded court calendar

Outside Experts

Jointly retained specialists provide information and guidance toward mutually beneficial solutions

Depends on experience/comfort level of the mediator's use of outside experts

Separate experts are hired to support the litigants' positions, often at greater expense to each spouse

Involvement of Lawyers

Each spouse has their own attorney working together with other neutral specialists to create a mutually agreed outcome

Mediators cannot advocate for either spouse. Mediators cannot prepare legal documents. Client's attorneys attend mediation sessions

Lawyers argue their client's positions which often creates a win-lose outcome and often at the greatest emotional and financial expense to clients


The process, discussions, and negotiation details are kept private

The process, discussions, and negotiation details are kept private

Disputes are a matter of public record and sometimes, media attention

Voluntary vs Mandatory


Voluntary in most situations

Mandatory if no agreement


Both communicate directly with the assistance of members of your team

Both communicate with the mediator

Both negotiate through your lawyers; little if any communication with spouse

Court Involvement

Outside of Court

Can be outside of Court; however, in certain situations, a Court hearing(s) may be required