Susan S. Williams
A Fredericksburg, VA area Family Lawyer and Divorce Lawyer
Fredericksburg, VA - King George, VA - Westmoreland, VA

Frequently Asked Questions

There seem to be so many different ways to resolve a divorce.  How do I know which is the best for me?

If you already know that you want to keep the matter out of court your choices are between Mediation and Collaborative.

The main differences are:

Another key difference is that in the Collaborative Process the parties agree that there will be no litigation while the process is ongoing. 

Here's a handy chart comparing Divorce Mediation, Collabortaive Divorce and Divorce Litigation to help you make the decision: Mediation vs Collaborative vs Litigation [PDF]

How can I get my spouse to agree to a Collaborative Divorce or Divorce Mediation?

If you can talk to your spouse, then you can discuss the advantages of each process and make the decision together. I have a CD that can be helpful. Another way is to give your spouse information such as websites that he or she can view. Explaining the benefits to both you and your children may be helpful.  You might enlist the help of a family member or friend, or a minister or therapist may be able to present your spouse an alternative to litigation.

How do these processes differ in the impact on my children?

The Collaborative Process is designed to put the children’s needs in the forefront. A licensed therapist or other mental health professional, known as the Child Specialist, is a vital member of the Team. The Child Specialist understands the needs of children of divorce, and knows what concerns children typically have (even if they do not talk about them) and what information is appropriate for them to have at their age. Parents are encouraged to talk with the Child Specialist about any concerns they may have and the best way to address them.

A Parenting Plan is developed, with the help of a professional Communications Coach, that blends the best that each parent has to offer. Although one parent may have left the home, children can see that the parents are working together and so have less reason to be fearful of what will happen to them. If there is litigation the children will not be permitted to be present in the courtroom when the case is tried. However, the nature of an adversarial proceeding, where one parent wins and the other loses and both are seen to be fighting, tends to focus each parent on the negative attributes of the other parent and children pick up on these thoughts.

Which cases need to be litigated?

Cases involving serious domestic violence or uncontrolled substance abuse are best left to the courts. Otherwise most cases can be resolved through Divorce Mediation or Collaborative Divorce. Just because someone is “at fault” does not mean that the case has to go to court; in fact the opposite is true. Attorneys are used to fault cases and will explain to clients what the effect of fault is in legal terms. With that knowledge, parties can realistically assess their positions and come to an Agreement that takes into consideration one party’s fault exactly as a Judge would if the case went to court.

Which process can help me tell my children and deal with my children’s anxieties?

The Collaborative Process was developed to address the concerns of all family members. The Child Specialist is a therapist who receives the same collaborative training as the rest of the Team. He or she will meet with the children to assess their needs and help the parents to understand and address them.

I cannot talk to my spouse. We fight all the time. How could we sit at the same table and work on our problems together?

The inability to talk to each other is a common reason for couples to divorce. The Collaborative Team includes a Communications Coach, a specially trained mental health professional who teaches the couple effective talking and listening skills. This helps couples through the Collaborative Process as they continue to co-parent.

Mediation is different and does not include a Coach, but the presence of the neutral mediator at the table, and the ability of the mediator to refocus clients who start fighting with each other, makes it possible to work on solutions jointly.

What is the cost for litigation, for Divorce Mediation, and for Collaborative Divorce?

That is hard to say up front as every family’s situation is different. We bill on an hourly basis, regardless of the process used. The question really needs to focus on how your money is used. In litigation, many tedious attorney hours are spent gathering, sorting, and reviewing documents from the past (discovery) and preparing witnesses. In Divorce Mediation and Collaborative Divorce, few documents are produced, just those needed to establish values or incomes to the other person’s satisfaction, and the focus is on the future and how lives can be restructured most effectively.

A fully litigated case is typically the most expensive; mediation is the least expensive and Collaborative somewhere in the middle. In the Collaborative Process there are well-trained professional helpers and they have to be paid, but you are getting real value for your money and resolution and agreement on all the issues that are important to your family, not just those that the law requires a judge to decide. You will also have a better understanding as to how your life and the lives of your children will be after the divorce is over.

For more information

To make an appointment to discuss your case, give me a call at (540) 775-9710 or send me an email.


9362 Kings Highway
P.O. Box 469
King George, VA 22485

Phone (540) 775-9710

Fax (540) 775-4907


Visit our Frequently Asked Questions for answers to many of the common questions about Divorce Mediation and Collaborative Divorce

Download this one-page comparison and discover if mediation or collaborative are right for you

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