Divorce Mediation or Divorce Litigation – Which Will Work Best for You

1. What is Divorce Mediation?
Divorce mediation is a voluntary, confidential and structured process in which spouses who are seeking divorce come together in a safe, comfortable setting and communicate with the help of a Mediator “a trained neutral”. Discussions take place in an environment that fosters open communication and covers all the necessary issues that need to be addressed so that they (the parties) can reach a self-made, forward looking agreement that will be accepted by the Court.

2. What is Divorce Litigation?
Divorce litigation is a legal process in which spouses seeking divorce choose their own individual Attorneys to represent them in their divorce proceedings. All communications, correspondence and exchange of information takes place between the Attorneys. Divorce litigation involves an involved discovery process, an exchange of financial information and other mandatory disclosure requirements, interrogatories, request for production of documents, depositions, case management conferences, motions if applicable, pre-trial conferences and if necessary, trial.

3. How long does the process of Divorce Mediation take as compared to Divorce Litigation?
Divorce mediation often requires between 3-5 (2) hour long mediation sessions that are then followed by the completion of the necessary court required paperwork (this can be completed by the Mediator, so long as he/she is also an Attorney. The timetable for divorce mediation is set by the parties (the soon to be ex-spouses). Divorce litigation can take up to 1 year for the parties to be given a hearing date with the Court; this is due in large part to the necessary exchange of information, documentation and other mandatory disclosure materials. Given that the correspondence is between attorneys and the Court is involved, the process can take a long time; the more professionals involved, the longer it will take. The timetable for divorce litigation is set by the court.

4. Who are the decision makers in Divorce Mediation and Divorce Litigation?
In Divorce Mediation, the parties are the decision makers. It is the parties (the spouses) who communicate with the help of the Mediator and reach self made agreements that work for them as individuals and as a family unit going forward. The parties also determine how quickly they would like the mediation process to proceed. In Divorce Litigation, the Judge is the decision maker and will hear the matter and make final decisions based on what he or she sees as fair and equitable and it is the Court who determines the timetable the parties will follow and how quickly the matter will be heard.

5. What is the cost of Divorce Mediation as compared with Divorce Litigation?
Divorce Mediation sessions typically cost $200-$400 dollars per (2) hour mediation session. The cost of preparing the paperwork necessary to present to the court can cost between $1500 and $2500. In total, to proceed with your divorce through the mediation process, you are looking at a total of generally less than $5,000. Divorce Litigation typically costs each party (each spouse) an average total cost of between $10,000-$20,000 maybe more depending on the complexities of your situation and this is inclusive of an on average retainer amount required of $5,000.

6. How does Divorce Mediation and Divorce Litigation differ when it comes to kids being involved?
In Divorce Mediation, the parties (spouses) determine what is in the best interest of the children and thus discussions take place and agreements are reached as to custody (legal and physical), parenting schedules, children expense accounts, and child support (to the extent allowed by law). In Divorce Litigation, if custody is contested, a court will likely appoint a guardian ad litem who will make determinations as to the best interest of your children. Sometimes, the courts insist on psychological testing of the children and other family members be performed.

7. What is the emotional impact of Divorce Mediation as compared with Divorce Litigation on everyone involved?
Divorce Mediation allows the parties to maintain control over the outcome of their situation. It is they, who discuss each issue and they who determine what is or is not fair, what can be traded off, and how to proceed going forward. Divorce Mediation enables dignity to remain intact and preserve relationships when needed, especially when children are involved. Mediation is the most pleasant of all the processes available to go through when proceeding with a divorce. In Divorce litigation, parties often feel anxious, frustrated and powerless. They have put their future in the hands of the attorneys and the court system and as a result, the outcome/results decided for them will leave them feeling strong feelings of resentment.