Collaborative divorce refers to the legal process of enabling couples who have decided to end their marriage to work with their attorneys and sometimes other professionals to reach an outcome that avoids the adversarial process. The goal throughout this process is to reach an outcome that meets the needs of each party and their children without the impending threat that of litigation. To this end, parties to the process sign a contract that incorporates protections for the parties that prevent their attorneys from wielding the threat of litigation based on the collaborative process.
Collaborative divorce, to be sure, is not a time to work out bugs in the marriage. By the time parties arrive at the negotiation table, they should have already decided their marriage is going to end. The role of the mediator, if one is used, throughout the collaborative process is to ensure that both parties are able to identify problems and find satisfactory solutions without going through the process of litigation.
This is an important point because it is not the task of the mediator to improve the relationship between the parties or to somehow give them a new and unique perspective on how they can view their difficulties together.
Different mediators do different philosophies on how the negotiation process should be interpreted and approached. Some mediators view themselves as advocating for the relationship, while others have a more down-to-earth view of simply helping parties to come to some sort of workable solution. Still, mediators have specific duties to abide by and they are ultimately not supposed to become entangled in the relationship itself.
Collaborative divorce can be an excellent way for parties to end a marriage peaceably, save money, and come up with creative solutions to their problems. Those for whom it works benefit greatly. That said, the process is not for everybody.