Divorce Mediation vs. Divorce Litigation: Know the Pros and Cons

 There are many decisions you have to make when seeking a divorce. The best options may not be straightforward, depending on your case, your spouse, your assets and property, and whether or not you have young children. For a more collaborative approach, you may consider divorce mediation. Undergoing mediation might eliminate the need for a divorce attorney to handle your case if yours has the potential to be resolved using qualified trained mediators.

Pros and Cons of Divorce Litigation

There are many reasons, both good and bad, to seek divorce litigation:

  • Pro: Divorces of all kinds can be handled in litigation. If your spouse seeks to acquire much more than half of your combined assets, or if the divorce grounds are contested, litigation might be necessary. Even with the best of intentions, some separating couples are unable to reach a workable agreement without the intervention of a judge. If your spouse is out of state or refuses to cooperate to try mediation, then it may be necessary to litigate the issues.

  • Pro: Litigation provides transparency if your spouse has been abusive. One good thing about divorce litigation is that it can neutralize an abusive spouse’s power to control domestic situations. Proceedings in divorce court are on public record, and that could be empowering for a party that has suffered years of bullying, undermining, or abuse. (However, even in these circumstances a skilled mediator may be able to help resolve the issues by being a neutral to the parties but standing in the way of bullying and abuse.)

  • Con: Litigation can be time-consuming. Divorce litigation is a lengthy process, and the methods of obtaining information are cumbersome and expensive for many couples. Inefficient systems can mean months or weeks pass before your court date is set.

  • Con: Litigation makes the parties adversaries. In litigation parties are adversaries who often time will take positions which anger and upset the other. It is not meant to heal but it is meant to decide where parties can’t. (In mediation, the parties learn to collaborate together to problem solve and resolve their respective needs and work for their mutual best interest and that of their children.)

  • Con: A judge makes the ultimate decision about your divorce. In mediation, you and your spouse are responsible for deciding what is best you and for your children and how to split your finances. You can be creative to minimize tax consequences and in some cases utilize the resources of the marriage in a way which best serves both parties. In divorce court, a judge makes these decisions. Judges are limited and often cannot pursue creative solutions, or if they can most often they will not do so. You can present your case, but the ultimate authority to decide lies with the court. Judges try hard, but they are human and have prejudices and human frailty.

Pros and cons of divorce mediation

Divorce mediation is an alternate dispute resolution that some couples use to avoid contentious litigation. Some of the pros and cons of mediation are:

  • Pro: Mediation is considerably less expensive than divorce litigation. When you are involved in complex divorce litigation, your lawyer typically charges hourly fees which quickly grow. These hours can really add up if the litigation proceeds for months or even years, as it often does. Many times, mediation is tens of thousands of dollars less expensive than doing everything with lawyers through court litigation and conflict.

  • Pro: You are in charge of crafting your own divorce decree. When you choose Virginia divorce mediation instead of divorce litigation, you are choosing to take control of your life after divorce. You and your spouse will collaborate with the assistance of a skilled mediator to determine what is best for the future of your family as it reconfigures. You will be able to arrive at solutions which a Court would not order or could not order but provide best for the future of you and your spouse. If you opt to do everything in court, a judge will be in charge of deciding what constitutes the best interests of your children, you and your finances.

  • Pro: Your children’s well-being matters. Parental conflict that is unresolvable and bitter is more harmful to children in a divorce itself. If you have children and wish to lessen the impact of the difficulties divorce can bring and the emotional toll it can have on parties and children alike, mediation could be a more solution-focused method of obtaining resolving the issues and obtaining a divorce.

  • Con: Mediation proceedings are not on public record. Some people would prefer that the details of their divorce be on public record. Mediation is a private undertaking, and the details of mediation proceedings are generally confidential and not made public (except the marital settlement agreement is often filed with the Court).

If you believe that mediation is a way you might prefer to resolve the differences with your spouse in order to obtain a divorce you may wish to contact us at Divorce Mediation Associates.

Divorce Mediation Associates are Northern Virginia’s premier mediation group. We offer a collaborative, informal, confidential, and solution-focused environment for your divorce mediation needs. If you would like more information, please call us at 703-665-7592, or through our online contact form. We look forward to working with you.


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