Since so many divorces vary in circumstance, it is fortunate that there are multiple ways to go about resolving them. If you haven't decided how you want to resolve your divorce, the best start is to inform yourself on the options out there. Understand what litigation and mediation are and then learn about the various pros and cons of them and see which one is best for your case.
Litigation is when you and your spouse have separate attorneys who will represent your interests in court. Your attorney will provide legal information and advice for you and will try to work with your spouse's attorney to seek a solution. Third parties, such as your attorneys and the judge, ultimately make the decisions for you.
Mediation is when you and your spouse sit down with a neutral third party who provides legal information for you and allows you to talk out your issues. This person does not offer legal advice and rather encourages communication. You and your spouse are the ones who make your decisions together.
Perhaps the difference biggest between litigation and mediation is the level of communication. If you and your spouse do not have the ability to effectively talk with one another without going off emotionally, then you might have to turn to litigation. However, if you believe you can maturely and calmly discuss the matters of your divorce with a neutral third party, mediation may be your best option.
Here are some common topics that aren't usually suited for mediation if you and your spouse cannot agree on them:
- Spousal support
- Child custody (i.e. no visitation or sole custody)
- Any belief your spouse isn't disclosing full income and assets
- Split of stock portfolio
Litigation tends to be significantly more expensive than mediation. In mediation, you and your partner are splitting the mediators hourly fee and it is in theory a lot less time consuming than battling it out in a courtroom. For litigation, you have to pay your own hourly attorney fees. However, if you and your spouse cannot agree on finances in mediation then it might save you money in the long run to have legal representation.
Sometimes the stress and duration of a trial can be draining on family members and too hard for you to go through. If you have children or close relatives involved in your marriage, think about how it could affect them. Also, think about whether or not you're ready to handle the emotional hardships of court.
Some people forget that in a litigated divorce, the paperwork you file is open public record. This means someone could search for your paperwork and obtain access to it. Mediation on the other hand, is completely private.
If you're in a rush to get divorced, mediation tends to be a quicker solution as long as you and your spouse can work together. Once again, it's all about communication. Litigation can be drawn out for years if you're not able to see eye to eye.