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November 27, 2023

Mediation vs. Litigation: Choosing the Right Divorce Approach for You

lawyer and their client signing papers

Divorce can be an incredibly tough situation for anyone to be in, and deciding on how to finalize your divorce can be confusing and overwhelming. Knowing your options and which is best for your situation can go a long way to reduce your stress and maintain a relationship with your spouse.

Consider the benefits and drawbacks of mediation and litigation, as well as collaborative divorce, to make an informed decision in your divorce case.

Understanding Mediation

Mediation is a voluntary form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) where couples work together with a mediator to compromise on the terms of their divorce. The goal of mediation is to satisfy both parties without going to court. Mediation works best when the couple wants to resolve their divorce amicably and there is a possibility that they’ll come to an agreement.

Benefits of Mediation

Mediation has multiple benefits, including:

  • Maintaining control and decision-making power: You and your partner will make the decisions regarding your divorce. The mediator is there to keep your conversation fair and respectful.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Mediation is less expensive than litigation as it resolves faster and requires fewer legal fees.
  • Confidentiality and privacy: Mediation is between you, your spouse and the mediator and occurs within a private setting where your information is kept confidential.
  • Reduced stress and emotional impact: Mediators work with you to reduce hostility and foster a cooperative environment. This helps reduce stress and relationship damage while promoting healthy communication throughout the divorce proceedings.

Drawbacks of Mediation

Mediation isn’t the best choice for all divorce cases as it has a few drawbacks:

  • Requires cooperation and good communication: Both parties must be willing to compromise to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. Mediation might not be appropriate if you or your spouse can’t agree or speak openly or if there is a power imbalance.
  • May not be suitable for complex legal issues: If your divorce involves multiple people, large and complex financial assets, deceit or domestic or child abuse, you might require the assistance or a lawyer and judge.
  • No guarantee of resolution: Even after trying mediation, you and your spouse might not agree on the divorce terms. In this case, you should try another form of dispute resolution.

Exploring Litigation

Litigation involves settling your divorce within a court of law. It is a lengthy and costly process as both sides will require lawyers and pay court fees. Despite this, the structure and rules can effectively resolve complex, high-conflict divorces.

Benefits of Litigation

Litigation’s benefits include:

  • Formal legal process and structure: In a court of law, there are rules and procedures that govern how the judge will conduct the divorce. This makes the process fair and transparent.
  • Legal protection and representation: A lawyer will protect you and your rights in a divorce case. This is especially important if you or your child have suffered abuse.
  • Ability to enforce court orders: Any divorce decisions made in court order are legally binding. This makes litigation a more secure and predictable option.
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Drawbacks of Litigation

If you are considering litigation for your divorce, understand the drawbacks:

  • High costs and lengthy proceedings: Most people hire a divorce lawyer to ensure the divorce is fair. Lawyers are expensive and litigation cases can take months, if not years, to reach a conclusion. This can lead to incredibly high legal and court fees.
  • Emotional toll and increased conflict: Litigation can take months or years to resolve. Depending on your circumstances, it can also involve a lot of hostility and stress as you’ll be going against your spouse. This will affect you emotionally and sometimes your family as well.
  • Loss of decision-making control: In litigation, the judge will decide on all aspects of your divorce, including whether it is granted, the division of assets, child custody, parenting arrangements, the amount of spousal or child support and other matters.

Hybrid Approach — Collaborative Divorce

Hybrid divorce approach with collaborative divorce

While most people get stuck on comparing mediation vs. litigation in divorce cases, collaborative divorce is another option for dispute resolution. It is the best combination of mediation and litigation, as it resolves divorces privately outside of a court, but both parties hire a lawyer. The final judgment is filed in court and becomes enforceable by law.

Understand the pros and cons of collaborative divorce to decide if it is the right option for you.

Benefits of Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative divorce allows for the following:

  • Cooperation and teamwork: Like mediation, a collaborative divorce involves discussing and deciding on divorce matters with your partner, but with a lawyer’s added guidance and support.
  • Privacy and confidentiality: The collaboration process occurs within a private setting, ensuring the discussion and documents are kept confidential. Only the final divorce judgment is shared publicly.
  • Customized solutions: You and your spouse have full control to make decisions that are best for your situation, and these can be much more flexible than those that a judge would decide on.

Drawbacks of Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative divorce still has its drawbacks, including:

  • Requirement to start over in litigation if collaboration fails: Mediation and collaborative divorce can work well if you and your spouse are on speaking terms. However, this does not always result in an agreement, and sometimes litigation is still required to resolve the divorce.
  • May not be suitable for high-conflict cases: Even with the assistance of lawyers, collaborative divorce relies on the willingness of both parties to talk and agree on the best outcome for the divorce. If your divorce is hostile and you can’t speak to your spouse, going to court may be the best option.
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How to Decide Which Approach Is Best for You

There are a few crucial factors to consider when making your decision, including:

  • Level of cooperation between spouses: Mediation and collaborative divorce could be a suitable option if you can speak and collaborate with your spouse.
  • Complexity of legal and financial issues: If your divorce is complicated and involves sensitive matters, collaborative divorce or litigation may be best.
  • Emotional well-being and ability to handle conflict: Litigation can cause emotional damage and worsen relations between spouses. To avoid this, try to solve your divorce using mediation.
  • Desired outcome and long-term goals: Mediation and a collaborative divorce is the best option if you have clear goals and solutions in mind for your divorce because you are in total control.

After considering these factors, it can be beneficial to consult divorce professionals. For mediation, it’s best to seek the guidance of a mediator. You’ll need to consult a divorce lawyer for litigation or collaborative divorce.

If you’re still unsure, it’s a good idea to seek the guidance of professional divorce lawyers who will consider your unique circumstances and suggest the best course of action.

Call a Specialist Divorce Lawyer in South Carolina

At Lauren Taylor Law, we have an all-female team of lawyers with over a decade of experience in divorce and family law, ready to help you make the best decision for your divorce. Based in Charleston and Greenville, you can rely on our expertise to guide you through the process and get your desired outcome.

Call us today or reach out to us online to schedule a consultation or ask any questions.


Lauren Taylor Law team ready to help

Mediation vs. Litigation: Choosing the Right Divorce Approach for You
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Mediation vs. Litigation: Choosing the Right Divorce Approach for You
Divorce can be an incredibly tough situation for anyone to be in, and deciding on how to finalize your divorce can be confusing and overwhelming. Knowing your options and which is best for your situation can go a long way to reduce your stress and maintain a relationship with your spouse.
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Lauren Taylor Law Firm
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