Many couples in Sacramento who are pondering a divorce are concerned about the emotional strain and expense of an extended court trial. These concerns are increased if the marriage involves young children or if the couple has acquired significant assets to split during the divorce. The California court system provides two alternatives to a full-blown trial: mediation and collaborative divorce. The two processes can be very similar, but a knowledge of the differences may help a couple choose the process that works better for them.

Mediation involves the services of a person who is trained to work with divorcing couples to face their differences and to assist them in finding solutions. Most mediators will collect the facts of the case from each of the parties through court disclosures or information provided by the parties or their attorneys. After collecting the information, the mediator will meet with both parties and their attorneys. Mediators do not take sides, and they have no power to make binding decisions. Instead, a mediator helps each party understand the attitude of the other party and to see what issues divide them. Rather than choose one side over the other, a mediator will help the parties find common ground that will resolve their dispute and obviate the need for a trial. Mediators generally charge an hourly fee that is paid by the participating parties.

A collaborative divorce does not involve a third party. Instead, each party hires a lawyer who has been trained in the techniques of collaborative divorce. The parties usually sign a contract at the outset of the divorce in which they both agree not to go to court. The lawyers are often parties to these contracts. Rather than stake out extreme adversarial positions, collaborative lawyers and their clients are contractually bound to understand the position of the other party and to seek compromise, not victory.

Anyone who wants more information on either divorce mediation or collaborative divorce may wish to contact a law firm that is experienced in either or both processes. A lawyer who understands mediation and collaborative divorce can explain how each process may work given the specific facts of the divorce.