What is the difference between Collaborative Law and Mediation?

Collaborative Law and Mediation are similar in many respects. They are both premised on good faith, full disclosure, mutual respect and the idea that we are trying to create a win-win agreement for everyone involved (including the children). In both processes the “work” of the case is done in a series of meetings. In between meetings there is usually homework that is assigned, which usually involves obtaining information or thinking about different possible ways to resolve a particular issue. All of the paperwork is done at the end of the case after a full agreement is reached. It gets mailed to the court and signed by the judge. There are no court appearances.

There are two key differences between Collaborative Law and mediation. In Collaborative Law each participant has their own attorney throughout the entire process. The attorney provides legal advice, guidance and education. In mediation the participants work with one neutral mediator. The mediator does not represent either person. The mediator can provide legal information (what are the rules and how might they apply to your situation) but not legal advice (what you should do). You can have lawyers involved in the mediation process, but many people choose not to.

The other main difference is something called the Participation Agreement. In Collaborative Law the participants and lawyers sign a Participation Agreement which says that neither side will go to court or threaten to go to court. It also says that if either person files in court then both people have to get new litigation lawyers and cannot use their Collaborative lawyers in the litigation process.

I want to do Collaborative Law. What if my spouse won’t participate?

Both people have to be willing to participate in either the Collaborative Law process or mediation. If one person chooses not to participate, then these options are not going to be available. If you are interested in doing mediation or Collaborative Law but don’t think that the other person will participate, we have a few suggestions.

One suggestion is to invite that person to call Forrest and talk to him about the different options for 10-15 minutes. It can be pretty intimidating to contact the mediator/Collaborative attorney, especially if you don’t want the divorce. A quick phone call can be a good way to introduce someone to the process. Another suggestion is to email the other person a link to this website and ask them if they are willing to do their own research and see if they think one of these processes could make sense. The most effective suggestion we have is to schedule a joint “process” consultation. This is an opportunity to learn about mediation and Collaborative Law, and to try to figure out what makes the most sense for your family. Joint consultations tend to be effective because both people get the same information at the same time.

Sometimes someone does not have the time or inclination to participate in the process, but will review documents if they are prepared and presented to them. If that is the case, an uncontested divorce may be a good option for you. In an uncontested divorce Forrest represents one person and prepares all of the paperwork. The other person is welcome to contact Forrest to discuss the paperwork or propose changes, but Forrest only represents his client and cannot provide legal advice to the other person.

How much does mediation cost?

The total cost of any case is difficult to predict. However, we can usually give a pretty accurate estimate of fees at the end of the first two-hour mediation appointment. If we can resolve the entire case in one two-hour meeting and then we do all of the paperwork for you, you can realistically expect fees in the $2,500 range assuming a normal amount of back and forth (i.e., no major disagreements).  This range assumes one meeting, all of the drafting and updating, filing the documents and seeing them through the court system.  If you need additional two hour meetings you can realistically expect an additional $600 to $750 per meeting, which includes the meeting time plus additional drafting time or other work time that is usually associated with having additional meetings. The filing fee for divorce throughout Oregon is $273 and that is in addition to the mediation fees.

How much does Collaborative Law cost?

Fees on Collaborative Law cases are more difficult to estimate than mediation fees. Generally speaking, Collaborative Law cases cost more than mediated cases but less than litigated cases that go to trial. We can give you a better estimate of fees after we have met and discussed your situation in greater detail.

How long will my case take?

The length (and cost) of a case depends on a couple of things. First, it depends on the number and complexity of issues. If you have a lot of difficult issues, your case is likely to take longer. Second, it depends on how well the two of you can work together. If you have a number of difficult issues but the two of you work effectively together, your case may still go reasonably quickly.

Once an agreement has been reached, we can typically prepare the first draft of documents within one week. We will email you the documents for your review. You are encouraged to review the documents with an attorney, although you are not required to do so. You will presumably have some comments or changes to the documents. The process of reviewing, providing feedback and then updating the documents usually takes between two and four weeks, although it can go much faster than that if everyone provides feedback promptly. Once the documents are submitted to the court it usually takes the court a few weeks to review and sign your judgment. Clackamas and Washington Counties usually take 2 to 3 weeks to sign judgments; Multnomah County usually takes 3 to 4 weeks to sign judgments.

If your mediation only takes one meeting, you can be divorced in as little as six to eight weeks.

Can both people come in for the consultation?

Yes! In fact, we encourage you to do so. The joint consultation is what we call a “process” consultation. In a process consultation we will discuss the different process options that you have available to you and try to determine what is the best option for you. It is an opportunity for Forrest to learn more about your situation, and a chance for you to meet Forrest and see if he is the right mediator or Collaborative attorney for you. Forrest does not provide legal advice at a joint consultation because an attorney can only represent one person. If you decide to do Collaborative Law following a joint consultation, then the two of you will need to decide who Forrest will represent. Forrest can help the other person find his or her own Collaborative attorney.

Will I have to go to court?

In 99% of mediations and Collaborative cases there are no court appearances. Occasionally a judge may have a question about a particular provision of the judgment. When that happens, we can usually write a letter or submit a supplemental pleading to answer the question. On very rare occasion the judge may want to visit with the clients to ask questions about the agreement they reached. Again, this is very unusual.

I need to do a modification. Will mediation or Collaborative Law work?

Absolutely. Mediation is a very efficient way of handling modifications. If the two of you have already decided on the overall agreement, we can have very brief meeting (maybe 30 to 60 minutes) and then do all of the paperwork for you. If you have not already reached an agreement, then either mediation or Collaborative Law may also be a good fit for you. There is a $150 filing fee any time you file an updated judgment.

I’m currently in the middle of a litigated case and am not satisfied with the process. Can your firm help?

Yes. If you have an attorney, talk to your attorney about using mediation to try to conclude your case. Your attorney will be familiar with mediation and the mediation process. Mediation can be conducted either with or without attorneys present. You should discuss with your attorney whether it makes sense for attorneys to be present. Forrest is happy to mediate either with or without attorneys present. If one person wants their attorney at mediation, then both attorneys should be present (if both people have attorneys).

If you mediate my case, can you also file my paperwork?

Yes. In Oregon, mediators who are attorneys can draft all of the necessary paperwork for you. Mediators who are not attorneys can only prepare a summary of the agreements reached. Most clients think that it makes sense to have the mediator draft the paperwork because the mediator was there for all of the negotiations and understands the agreements that were reached. Perhaps more importantly, the mediator will draft the paperwork in a neutral way. If one of the attorneys drafts the paperwork, it is possible that the paperwork will be drafted in a way that favors that attorney’s client.

I live outside of the Portland area. Can you still mediate my case?

Forrest is available to mediate either by phone, Skype, or by travelling to your location. Contact our office to inquire about travel expenses.

I live in a different state. Can you still mediate my case?

Forrest is available to mediate outside of Oregon and to provide a summary document following mediation. Forrest can only prepare all of the necessary filing paperwork if one participant is a resident (or domiciliary) of Oregon and the case is going to be filed in Oregon.