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Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): Collaborative Divorce and Mediation

The decision to pursue a divorce is difficult enough. Then, the task of carrying out the necessary legal processes can be daunting. While you want to protect your own financial security, you may dread the idea of doing battle with your spouse – your partner in life during your marriage. The idea of fighting your soon-to-be-ex in a public court of law may feel wrong. It can also be costly with uncertain results.

For many people, a drawn-out acrimonious divorce argued in a court – with private details being documented in public records – seems like a nightmare to avoid. Going this route can be supremely stressful regardless of how difficult you think your divorce will be to resolve.

At Sowald Sowald Anderson Hawley & Johnson, you will find divorce attorneys who understand how important it is for you to buy into the legal path you take to complete your divorce. Your priorities can and should align well with the legal process that will bring your family law case to a timely and cost-effective conclusion.

Alternative Options To The Court Room

The good news is that you do not have to go to war to legally end your marriage in a reasonable fashion. You do not have to put your private family business out for public review in a court, before a judge and/or jury. You and your spouse can achieve an equitable distribution of property and a family-friendly child custody agreement on your own terms.

To keep better control of your own fate, ask an attorney to help you select an appropriate form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), such as collaborative law methods, arbitration or mediation.

Collaborative Law Is A Formal, Out-Of-Court Process

Collaborative law is a manner in which to complete a dissolution when the parties are unable to reach a full agreement and complete a dissolution while working with their attorneys individually. The collaborative process is the same as marriage dissolution, except that it requires that both parties be represented by an attorney and that both parties and their attorneys sign an agreement obligating them to resolve all the issues through negotiation and agreement, without filing a contested divorce. Rather than moving into a contested divorce when the parties are unable to resolve their issues, collaborative law focuses on building a cooperative and structured environment to help the two sides reach an agreement out of court.

At the law firm of Sowald Sowald Anderson Hawley & Johnson in Columbus, Ohio, we have lawyers familiar with and experienced in all forms of family law ADR, including the collaborative law process. Our divorce attorneys will work with you, your spouse and your spouse’s attorney to reach a reasonable and suitable agreement.

Contact our Columbus collaborative divorce attorneys to discuss other alternatives to divorce that are more cost-effective and peaceful. Call today at 380-217-3322 or by filling out our online form.

How Does Collaborative Law Work in Ohio?

In collaborative law, both sides and their attorneys enter into a written agreement to work together as a group to resolve all the issues and to terminate the marriage by dissolution. The parties and their collaborative divorce attorneys schedule a series of four-way meetings during which disputed issues are discussed, information and documents are exchanged, and an agreement is worked out.

If necessary, financial planners, accountants, counselors and other experts may be involved to review information and offer assistance and suggestions on how to best resolve certain matters.

Is Collaborative Divorce In Ohio Cheaper Than Litigated Divorce?

Collaborative divorce is almost always cheaper than litigation, and significantly so. Although there can be more up-front costs because of the involvement of a full professional team, the total cost is considerably lower than if each party’s separate family law attorney spent months (or years!) preparing for trial.

Collaborative divorce tends to be much faster than traditional divorce litigation and requires a smaller investment of attorney time and prep work. Those two factors will normally reduce overall expenses.

How Long Does Collaborative Divorce Take In Ohio?

The length of the process will depend on numerous factors, including how many disputed matters there are to resolve, how far apart spouses are in their level of disagreement, and the necessary level of involvement of the other members of the professional team.

Once all the issues have been resolved, the family lawyers formalize the details in a written agreement, and the couple can file a petition for dissolution, which requires only one court visit.

Even when the collaborative process takes a little longer than normal, it is still likely to be far faster and less expensive than a litigated divorce. And, in the end, it is the parties who control the outcome rather than the court.


Mediation is another ADR process by which parties can attempt to resolve issues in a divorce or dissolution. Rather than submitting the unresolved issues to the court and letting the court make the decision, mediation provides the parties with a forum to express and discuss their thoughts and concerns with the assistance of a neutral third party. The mediator’s purpose is to facilitate and guide the discussion in a way that is productive.

How Does Mediation Differ From Collaborative Divorce?

Both collaborative divorce and mediation involve negotiation between parties outside the courtroom. The major differences between these ADR methods are how and by whom the negotiations are conducted.

Collaborative law takes a team approach. Each spouse is represented by their own Ohio family law attorney and all four parties participate fully in negotiation sessions. In addition, the parties and their collaborative divorce attorneys jointly select knowledgeable professionals to assist them throughout the process. Collaborative meetings are guided by an agenda advanced to all parties and everyone in the room is working toward accomplishing the same goals.

In mediation, however, the sessions are conducted by a neutral third party (the mediator), whose job is to keep the conversation going so that spouses can reach an agreement on their own. The mediation process can involve two spouses in the same room, or spouses could be in two separate rooms with the mediator going back and forth between the two. Each spouse may have the opportunity to consult with their own divorce attorney, but family lawyers do not play as direct a role as they would in collaborative law, and there is usually no guidance from other professionals.

How Does Mediation Work?

Mediation uses a neutral third party (the mediator) to facilitate a series of discussions between the parties about disputed issues. The mediator may be an attorney, but the mediator does not, and cannot, represent either party. The mediator is there to keep the conversation focused on the relevant issues and to ensure that both parties have the opportunity to identify and address their thoughts and concerns. The mediator does not make decisions or suggest solutions, but rather facilitates discussion to assist the parties in reaching their own resolution. If the mediation is successful and the parties are able to reach an agreement, the mediator puts the agreement in writing and the parties then provide the written agreement to their attorneys to be incorporated into the necessary legal documents.

Some Ohio counties require a mediation assessment when the two sides have a dispute over child custody and visitation. Mediation is also an option when the two sides want to try to reach an agreement on issues such as marital property division, child support and spousal support before going to court. While parties are never required to make agreements in mediation, it does provide an opportunity to reach a resolution each can live with, rather than facing the possibility of a court imposing a decision that does not satisfy either party.

Mediation agreements are not binding until they are made an order of the court, even if both parties signed the agreement at the end of the mediation process.

Robert Hawley can provide mediation services whether you are in the process of a marital dissolution or in a contested divorce.

Should I Use Mediation?

Mediation can be a useful tool for resolving virtually any family law issue, but it is not a substitute for legal representation. It is not the role of a mediator to make decisions or analyze complex financial and legal issues. The mediation process is designed to assist the parties in identifying, discussing and resolving issues either before court action is initiated or prior to a case going to trial.

Couples who seek mediation before going to court will still have to complete the formal documents and requirements to legally finalize their family law matter, which may require one or both parties to hire an attorney. Couples who participate in mediation after a court action is initiated will still need to work with the court and their attorneys to finalize the court action. Thus, mediation can be a first step to terminating a marriage before starting the divorce process or an interim step during the court process to aid in negotiation and resolution.

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Schedule A Collaboration Law Consultation Or Mediation Assessment

To schedule a consultation about mediation or collaborative divorce with an ADR lawyer at Sowald Sowald Anderson Hawley & Johnson, call 380-217-3322 or fill out the contact form on this website. Our family law office is on Fifth Street in downtown Columbus.