The Difference Between Divorce Mediation and Divorce Litigation

The Difference Between Divorce Mediation and Divorce Litigation

Navigating a divorce can be a challenge, especially with all the new language you might not yet understand. 

You may think you know what you’re dealing with in regards to specific terms such as “alimony” or “child support.” However, in any legal matter, you’re better served to understand exactly what this new terminology is referencing. 

Two of the more important terms to understand in divorce are “divorce litigation” and “divorce mediation.” Both terms describe unique ways that spouses can choose to handle their divorce.

Divorce Mediation vs. Divorce Litigation

Divorce litigation is considered the “traditional” route to completing a divorce. It’s where one spouse files for divorce against another through a lawsuit. Litigation doesn’t mean your case will go to court—it’s just a more formal way to get things done, especially if tensions and emotions are running high. 

Alternatively, divorce mediation is where both parties try to come together and settle their divorce outside of court and without a lawsuit. You and your spouse would ideally choose a qualified divorce mediator you both like who would meet with you over time to agree upon terms of the divorce. 

Divorce Litigation

In many cases, both sides don’t agree with the terms of the divorce, or even whether the divorce should happen at all. When this is the case, the better option for you and your spouse is to keep things very formal during the process. 

Divorce litigation is typically the more expensive option, since you'll both have lawyers’ fees and other associated costs that come with filing a lawsuit against someone. While not all divorce litigation cases go to court, it is a lawsuit so you shouldn’t rule the possibility out.

 Divorce litigation could be a good choice if: 

  • There are unusual circumstances. Every relationship is different, so every divorce will be different. If you and your spouse have complex issues that fall outside of the scope of a typical divorce mediator, then litigation is usually the best choice.
  • One side refuses to cooperate. If one side refuses to cooperate with the other, things can become stressful quickly. If issues arise where you or your spouse do not want to pay alimony or split parenting time, litigation is probably the best choice.
  • If there is violence, abuse, or manipulation in the relationship. If one side is using violence, aggression, or manipulation to try and get what they want, mediation will be very difficult. In cases like this, the best route is usually litigation.

Divorce litigation is a serious legal choice and shouldn’t be chosen lightly. If you and your spouse are still on decent terms and committed to ensuring a smooth process, then mediation might be a better option for you.

Divorce Mediation

During divorce mediation, you and your partner will meet regularly, usually with a divorce mediation attorney. During these sessions, you will talk about and agree upon various terms of the divorce. Typically, each person would split the cost of the divorce mediator - which means this option tends to be much less expensive than litigation.

Once you’ve come to an agreement with your spouse, the mediator will draw up documents for you both to sign and then you’ll take them to court to be approved by a judge. 

Divorce mediation could be a good choice if: 

  • You want more control over the situation. Mediation offers a less formal route to completing a divorce and allows both parties to openly communicate with the help of a neutral third party. Both parties can control more of the decisions and feel as though they both have more of a say in the agreement. 
  • You and your partner can still work together professionally. If you and your partner are still on good speaking terms—or at least still can talk to each other to come to an agreement—it’s a good choice to give mediation a shot. If you work together now, it can benefit you in the long run. 

Doing What’s Best For You 

When it comes down to it, you should do what’s best for you to get through your divorce. In a perfect world, you and your partner would be able to sit down, hash things out yourself and move on with your lives, but that's not always the case.

Don't rush into a decision - take your time to ensure that you've done your research and are prepared to make a decision on which method is best for you. It's important that you settle your divorce in a way that respects your time and puts the least amount of stress on you, your partner, and your family.

If you want to explore the difference between mediation and litigation more, check out this podcast over at Alternative Divorce Solutions featuring Max Hills of Hills Law Group.

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