How is the Collaborative Process different from other forms of dispute resolution?

There are many ways to resolve disputes. Litigation is the traditional legal approach. In litigation, each attorney works to convince a judge that his or her client’s version of reality is true. Often, this includes contradicting, or even disparaging, the other party, and challenging that person’s perception of reality. Trial is often compared to a battle, in which the best side wins. However, all attorneys understand that the "best side" doesn’t always win and that in many disputes, the party who "wins" at trial still loses in other ways.

Both the Collaborative Process and mediation are committed to the voluntary and free exchange of information and a focus on a respectful and fair resolution that addresses the needs of both parties. In mediation, there is one “neutral” professional who helps the disputing parties try to reach an agreement. The mediator cannot offer legal advice or advocate for either party. If one party becomes unreasonable, lacks negotiating skill, or is emotionally distraught, the mediation can become unbalanced. If the mediator tries to address the the problem, the mediator may be seen by one side or the other as biased. If the mediator does not find a way to resolve the problem, the mediation will fail or the agreement will be unfair.

The Collaborative Process is designed to deal more effectively with these potential problems, while maintaining the same commitment to reaching a settlement. Each party has immediate access to well-qualified legal advice that is built into the process. Even when one side or the other lacks negotiating skill or financial understanding, or is emotionally upset or angry, the playing field is leveled by the use of the Collaborative Team (Collaborative attorneys, coaches, a child specialist, a financial specialist). All team members share a mutual commitment and responsibility to collaborate with each other and to insure that the process stays positive and productive.