As the top divorce attorneys for the Tampa Bay area, our clients often times are focused on one main objective, without any awareness of how many variables will be involved to get to the desired end result. There noses are firmly planted against one tree. My job as a Tampa lawyer is to pull them away from that tree and lead them up the hill, where they can see the clear path through the trees to get through the forest, and help guide them down that path. So what are mediation and collaborative divorce, as opposed to the traditional adversarial divorce process?
Mediation is when a single neutral person, who may be a lawyer or simply someone with an interest in mediation, acts as the mediator for the couple. The mediator helps the couple reach an agreement, but does not give individual legal advice, and may or may not prepare the divorce agreement. Few mediators will process the divorce through the court. Retaining your own lawyer for independent legal advice during mediation is generally wise. In some locales the lawyers sit in on the mediation process, and in other locales they remain outside the mediation process. Mediators do not have to be licensed professionals in most jurisdictions. 
In a collaborative divorce, each person retains his or her own trained collaborative divorce lawyer to advise and assist in negotiating an agreement on all issues. All negotiations take place in “four-way” settlement meetings that both clients and both lawyers attend. The lawyers cannot go to court or threaten to go to court. Settlement is the only agenda. If either client goes to court, both collaborative lawyers are disqualified from further participation. Each client has built-in legal advice and advocacy during negotiations, and each lawyer’s job includes guiding the client toward reasonable resolutions. The legal advice is an integral part of the process, but all the decisions are made by the clients. The lawyers generally prepare and process all papers required for the divorce. 
In this on-going series, I’ll be addressing the differences between mediation, collaborative divorce, and the traditional divorce. Hopefully, we’ll help you narrow down which forum might be right for your dissolutionment. Please contact our office to speak with a Top Qualified Divorce Attorney and discuss your individual needs.
David Anton is a third generation Tampa Bay attorney who has handled all aspects of dissolution actions since 1985.