The process of finalizing a divorce can be a contentious, emotionally draining, and expensive endeavor.  However, much of the dissension that arises in contested divorces can be avoided if the divorcing spouses attempt a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR).  Two forms of ADR commonly used in divorces are collaborative divorce and mediation.  Below are the key features of each:

Collaborative Divorce

The goal of collaborative divorce is to arrive at an equitable settlement. Collaborative divorce involves the input of various professional experts, including accountants, financial advisors, and mental health professionals. Your attorney may be present, but the purpose is for a couple to work out differences in order to arrive at an equitable divorce settlement without animosity.

Collaborative divorce requires the parties to engage in courteous and respectful direct negotiation. The key is to put aside any pain and anger and work on negotiating a fair settlement. If collaborative divorce is unsuccessful, the parties must seek new attorneys.



The goal of mediation is to arrive at a settlement, regardless of the settlement’s fairness.

Mediation is guided by a mediator.  He or she is not an advisor, but rather a facilitator of negotiations whose objective is to steer the parties toward settlement. Once again, your attorney may be present. Mediation requires little or no direct interaction between the parties.  Communication is facilitated by the mediator.

If mediation fails, generally the divorce will need to be settled in court. This takes power out of the hands of the parties, and places it on the judge who will preside. The parties are not required to hire new attorneys if mediation fails.


For Assistance

While ADR is not always successful, given the likely unpleasantness of litigating a contested divorce, you should fully explore the possibility of ADR. For more information, contact the attorneys at Smith Strong at 804.325.1245 (Richmond) or 757.941.4298 (Williamsburg).

H. Van Smith
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Trusted Virginia Attorney Serving Richmond to Williamsburg