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Mitigating the Stress of a Divorce Through Mediation, Collaboration

Divorcing couples often don’t realize that the law allows other avenues to resolve a divorce than just traditional litigation. Mediation and collaboration can be much less stressful and expensive.

Married couples who decide to divorce often believe that what’s ahead is a stressful, costly experience that will leave them exhausted and penniless. And, leaving the unknown in the hands of a family law court only adds to the stress.

But the parties may not realize that the law allows other avenues to resolve a divorce. For instance, mediation and collaboration are two different types of alternative dispute resolution methods that can be much less stressful and expensive than traditional litigation methods. Mediation and collaboration are beneficial because divorcing parties can come to an agreement on their own, which can then be approved when the divorce is granted by the family law judge. Also, these methods can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to complete the divorce process.

Understanding mediation

Mediation is one alternative dispute resolution avenue for divorces. In mediation, usually only the divorcing parties and a mediator are present during the negotiation process. By law in Tennessee, when the parties have minor children, mediation is required before the divorce case can be set for trial (unless the court waives mediation).

The mediation is a neutral party and does not represent either party’s interests. Instead, the mediator helps the couple formulate ideas and come to an agreement on property terms, child custody arrangements, retirement matters, and other divorce issues.

Mediation allows parties to communicate more directly, which can be helpful post-divorce. Couples with children, for instance, will need to continuously interact in the future years.

On average, about 65% of divorce cases that are mediated do reach a settlement. In middle Tennessee, mediations are usually done in one session, but may last 4-8 hours.

Understanding collaboration

Collaboration, or collaborative family law, is another alternative method to settling a divorce. This type of resolution is new in Tennessee, but is gaining popularity. Each party retains an attorney to represent his or her interests. A mediator is also present. Everyone works together in good faith, typically in an informal setting, to negotiate a fair agreement.

In collaboration, experts are often retained to assist with the process. Child psychologists and financial consultants, are among the potential list of consultants utilized. Which professionals and how many are consulted will depend on individual circumstances.

Information gathered in 2010 from the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals reveal that roughly 60 percent of divorce settlements via collaborative family law took 8 months or less to complete.


Both collaboration and mediation are often less expensive than litigation. According to the IACP, litigating a divorce often costs at least three times as much as mediation or collaboration.

However, it will always depend on the circumstances and the involvement of the parties. Speaking with a family law attorney who can discuss the best option for individual situations is the first step.