There are many ways to resolve disputes. Litigation is the traditional legal approach. In litigation, lawyers work hard to convince a judge (or jury) that the lawyer's client's version of reality is, in fact, correct. Often, this includes denigrating the other party or his/her perception of reality. Trial is often compared to a battle, in which the best side wins. However, all lawyers understand that the "best side" doesn't always win and that in many disputes, the party who "wins" at trial still loses in other ways. In some circumstances, litigation is the only appropriate option. For example, if a party consistently hides information or is abusive, the formal procedures used in litigation may be necessary. If a party is unwilling to negotiate in good faith, a third party decision-maker may be needed. Litigation usually costs more than other forms of dispute resolution, and the outcome is typically less satisfactory.
In mediation, a neutral professional assists the clients in settling the dispute. Generally, the clients agree that all relevant information will be shared between them and that they are seeking a "win-win" solution. The mediator does not represent either party, and the clients do not go to court. In some forms of mediation, attorneys serve only in a consulting or reviewing capacity. In other situations, attorneys participate in the mediation. Mediation can work well for clients who have the ability to communicate their needs directly to the other person and who have a similar understanding of the financial and other information being presented.
Collaborative Practice combines the positive qualities of litigation and mediation. As in litigation, each party has an independent attorney who will give her or him legal advice and will assist in putting forward his or her interests. Drawing from mediation, the clients and their Collaborative attorneys commit to both an open information gathering and sharing process and to resolve their differences without going to court. In addition, the clients can mutually agree to engage other professionals such as Child Specialists, Financial Specialists, Divorce Coaches, Vocational Counselors or other neutral consultants to provide them with specialized assistance. The clients acknowledge that the best result for each of them will occur when they reach the best result for all of them.