Handling a divorce can be difficult. Some couples choose to divorce abruptly because of acute issues such as infidelity, domestic violence, or substance abuse. Others experience tensions that build up over time, eventually compelling the spouses to end their marriage. No matter what your situation entails, there are two main paths through the divorce process today: litigation and mediation. It’s important to understand the differences between these two options and the advantages and drawbacks of both. Review the following frequently asked questions about divorce litigation versus divorce mediation to better understand these options.
Q: Why Should I Consider Divorce Mediation?
A: Mediation offers a more streamlined alternative to divorce litigation, typically allowing a couple to complete their divorce in a much shorter time than litigation would offer. During mediation, the couple can negotiate their divorce terms in complete privacy. In addition, everything said during mediation sessions remains confidential, whereas when a couple litigates, everything said in court becomes public record. Mediation also allows the couple to maintain more control over the outcome of their divorce, unlike litigation in which the judge has the final say.
Q: How Long Will Divorce Mediation Take?
A: Most couples can complete divorce mediation in a matter of weeks or just a few months, whereas litigation can take a year or longer in some cases. Ultimately, the time required to complete divorce proceedings depends on the complexity of the case and the spouses’ willingness to cooperate with one another.
Q: What Happens If My Spouse Demands a Trial in Divorce Court?
A: Unfortunately, mediation requires both spouses to accept this path through divorce. If one spouse refuses to compromise, mediation is not an option, and the case must proceed through the litigation process.
Q: Is There Any Way to Avoid Divorce Litigation Entirely?
A: Virtually every divorce case will require some measure of litigation. For example, if you reach mutually agreeable divorce terms in mediation, you still need a judge to finalize your divorce order. You will also require a judge to approve a parenting plan if you have children and are divorcing. In addition, the court must ensure your custody and support terms serve your child’s best interests. However, you can minimize the time required in litigation by choosing alternative dispute resolution and settling as much as possible before moving to litigation to finalize the divorce.
Q: How Long Does Divorce Litigation Take?
A: Litigation can take several months or longer than a year for complex divorce cases. The time required to complete divorce litigation ultimately hinges on the complexity of the divorcing couple’s shared marital assets, whether they have children together, and whether they have a prenuptial agreement in place when they decide to end their marriage.
Q: How Can an Attorney Assist Me in Divorce Mediation?
A: You should have legal counsel on your side no matter how you choose to handle your divorce. The right attorney can make a significant difference in the outcome of your divorce case, helping you address the complex issues your divorce entails with confidence and helping you make more informed decisions as your negotiations with your spouse unfold. In addition, during mediation, you can choose to have your attorney attend some or all of your mediation sessions.
Q: How Will a Lawyer Help Me During Divorce Litigation?
A: If you take your divorce to court, you need to have an attorney on your side to help you navigate the complex proceedings you face. The courtroom experience can be incredibly daunting if you do not know what to expect, and having reliable legal counsel on your side will make the process much easier for you to handle. In addition, your attorney can handle your procedural obligations, ensure you make all required court appearances, and offer you continuing guidance as your case unfolds.
Q: My Spouse and I Finished Mediation Negotiations. What Happens Next?
A: Mediation allows you and your spouse to craft your divorce agreement on your own terms, but you will still need to have a family court judge approve your divorce order before your divorce is formally granted. Additionally, if you could not settle every aspect of your divorce in mediation, you must have a judge review the remaining details and deliver a ruling. Ultimately, you should strive to cover as much as possible in mediation before proceeding to litigation for a final review and approval from a judge.
Q: Can I Save Money by Not Hiring an Attorney?
A: Technically, you would save money on legal fees if you do not hire an attorney. However, this is a hazardous choice as you will not have professional legal guidance on your side as your divorce unfolds. This is especially true if your spouse has hired an attorney; you will be at a significant disadvantage regardless of whether you go to court or agree to alternative dispute resolution. Ultimately, the risks of not hiring an attorney far outweigh any potential benefits. While you may save money on legal fees, this may not matter in the long run if you end up with an unfavorable divorce settlement.
Q: Is Divorce Mediation or Litigation Cheaper When it Comes to Legal Fees?
A: The majority of divorce attorneys bill their clients by the hour. The more time they must spend working on a client’s case, the more it will cost the client. Since mediation generally takes much less time to complete than litigation, it is safe to assume that mediation offers a more affordable cost when it comes to your legal fees. If you want to save as much money as possible on your legal fees, make sure you choose an attorney with a reasonable and transparent billing policy who encourages you to pursue alternative dispute resolution.
Find Your Legal Counsel Today
Hopefully, these questions and their answers will help you better understand the differences between mediation and litigation and the value of opting for alternative dispute resolution whenever possible. Every divorce case is unique, and it’s essential to secure legal counsel from a trusted divorce attorney so you can better understand the variables in play in your divorce case. If you are still unsure as to how you should go about approaching your divorce, contact an experienced divorce attorney as soon as possible to schedule a consultation and learn more about your options.