“Say no to collaborative law or mediation” is not a phrase you would expect to be uttered by a collaborative divorce law attorney. However, there are times that collaborative law and mediation are not in your best interest.

Of course every situation is very different and the viewpoint in this article is not intended as legal advice. Yet there is some wisdom in carefully considering the details of your own situation and the comparative merits of different approaches to settling a divorce.

Why might you need to say no to Collaborative Divorce?

Your decision should rest largely on the characteristics of both you and your spouse and the pattern of your relationship.

To be successful, mediation and collaborative divorce both require a mutual, good-faith effort to settle. If your or your spouse don’t have this mindset going in, the chances of success are low. You may well be wasting time and money.

Think back on how you fought with each other during the marriage. Was your spouse combative or revengeful? Was there a tit for tat, getting even nature to your discussions? Did your spouse show an ability to negotiate or see your perspective on occasion? 

If there has been a stubborn resolve to defend one’s position no matter how irrational or costly, it is unlikely you will be able to resolve your disputes through mediation or collaboration. You may best be served by pursing a traditional divorce process.

High Risk Personality Types

If your spouse has abused you emotionally or physically, you likely have reasons not to trust him or her to work toward an agreement that would be mutually beneficial. In fact, when there is a history of violence, fair negotiation is likely impossible. How can the abused spouse trust that they can speak or act without facing further reprisals? Divorce in this situation often requires that far more care be taken. If you are in an abusive situation, you may wish to contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233).

Abuse and violence are not the only personality or situational factors that might preclude collaborative divorce or mediation. Narcissists and “high conflict” individuals are usually unwilling to compromise and are insensitive to the costs of the conflict to themselves or their families. Again, working toward compromise and a mutually agreed-upon solution is unlikely.

Making Your Choice

In any of these situations, the traditional divorce process may well be the best place to start. You will be more protected where the proceedings take place in the structured environment of the courthouse and access to a judge’s intervention is readily available.

Choosing what is best for you to resolve your conflict and secure a divorce can be a complicated decision. You are best served by consulting with an attorney experienced in all forms of divorce and able to advise you on what you can expect down each avenue. Then you can say with confidence, yes or no to collaborative divorce or mediation.