For most modern divorces, the two most common solutions people find themselves choosing between are divorce mediation or divorce litigation. While there are other forms of alternative dispute resolution, mediation is arguably the most popular.
If you find yourself wondering whether divorce litigation or mediation might be better for your family circumstances, familiarizing yourself with the benefits and drawbacks of each approach can help you make a more informed decision.
The benefits of litigation include an impartial judge and careful legal review
For some couples, litigated divorce will be the best option. It is certainly the accepted standard for contested divorces. When you litigate your divorce, both you and your ex present information about your marriage, your assets and your expectations to the judge, who will then do their best to rule in a way that is reasonable and fair given the unique circumstances of your family.
Although you lose control over the outcome in litigation, having a neutral third party with ultimate authority can ensure fair and impartial results. Additionally, if you worry about your spouse hiding assets, forcing them to report all of their assets to the court can give you grounds for later action if they lie.
The drawbacks of court include the cost and the inconvenience
Litigated divorces can take a long time and cost large amounts of money. The more time you spend in courts, the more work you miss and costs you’ll incur. Not only does litigating your divorce mean that you have to abide by the decision of someone outside of your family regarding important things like the division of your possessions on the custody of your children, but it can also mean a more traumatic experience for you, your ex and any children you share.
The benefits of mediation include control and privacy
Mediation is something you do before you file for divorce. You and your spouse, along with your own attorneys and a mediator, sit down to discuss the specifics of your divorce. The goal is mutual compromise in order for both spouses to maintain some control over the outcome. In mediation, you can typically advocate for the terms that matter the most to you, which means you have more control ultimately than you would in litigation.
Additionally, since you don’t have to go through proceedings in court, mediation is substantially more private than litigation and can provide an additional buffer between your children and the divorce’s stress.
Mediation doesn’t always succeed
Mediation requires that both parties have the motivation to work together. If you can’t or won’t compromise on certain terms, mediation could fail. In that situation, you would incur extra expenses, as you would have to pay for mediation and then the litigated divorce.
Additionally, mediation can leave one spouse vulnerable to trickery on the part of the other, including not disclosing hidden assets. Finally, mediation can be problematic for couples with an unbalanced power dynamic, such as a history of bullying or abuse.
Depending on your relationship, the issues that you don’t agree on and many other factors, mediation could be a viable solution for your divorce, or litigation might be the better choice.