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The Pros and Cons of Mediation vs. Litigation in Divorce

Deciding to divorce sets the stage for intense negotiations between you and your estranged spouse. Emotions are high, and so are the stakes: You want what you think is fair for you. This means protecting your assets, your money, and your children, not to mention your sanity. Most people in this scenario turn to a divorce attorney or mediator to help make sure they’re getting their fair share and protecting their best interests. While there are couples who divorce amicably and can agree upon terms while sitting at the kitchen table, many more divorces are highly complex and must be hashed out to determine “who gets what” in the aftermath.

The terms of a divorce, whether through mediation or litigation, will need to include:

  • the decision to divorce;
  • how child custody will be divided;
  • who will pay child and/or spousal support, if applicable;
  • how property, assets, and debts will be split up; and
  • more.

So, what can you do to ensure you get the best chance at securing what you want in a divorce? Let’s look at the difference between divorce meditation and litigation to give you a better idea of what would work best for you. Even in the best case scenario, it can be difficult to come to a mutually-beneficial agreement and the situation can become hostile quickly without skilled legal guidance.

What Is Divorce Mediation?

Divorce mediation is not mandatory by California law, as it is in some other states. However, it is a valuable first step for many couples who wish to part ways without the intervention of the court deciding the terms. Couples who turn to mediation want to hash out the details of their divorce between themselves, rather than spending time, money, and the potential aggravation of going to court.

This method can be less costly and more efficient than litigation if you can arrive at terms both of you consider fair. Also, you don’t have to wait for a judge or jury to decide your case, where you won’t be certain of the outcome. A divorce mediator is a neutral, unbiased third party who does not judge your case, but facilitates discussion and strives to resolve the couple’s dispute without having to litigate. It’s worth noting that while mediation is private, and you can freely present your side of the story behind closed doors, litigation is not, and may be public record for anyone who wishes to see it.

Mediation is not right for everyone, and if your spouse digs in their heels and refuses to listen to a reasonable argument on what you want in the divorce, it might be in your best interest to pursue litigation.

How Is Litigation Different from Mediation?

Divorce litigation is a way to resolve your divorce in family court if you and your estranged spouse cannot amicably determine your divorce terms. Divorces proceeding to trial are those which are more adversarial and involve significant conflict – they are “contested.” Disagreements may involve matters of child custody/visitation/support, division of assets/debt, alimony, and more. In some cases, a spouse may want to punish the other for past transgressions, such as infidelity, and will refuse to grant joint custody, for example. Litigation is the recourse estranged spouses can take to reach an agreement when mediation proves unsuccessful.

Litigation may be the best route if any of the following apply:

  • Your spouse is an unfit parent.
  • Your spouse was violent or otherwise abusive.
  • Your spouse concealed assets from you or undervalued them on purpose.
  • Your spouse pressured you to accept unfavorable divorce terms.

Litigation is stressful without strong legal representation at your side to help advocate for you in a divorce. Litigation almost always takes longer to resolve than mediation, which is something to keep in mind when determining how you would like to proceed.

Is Mediation or Litigation Right for Me?

Divorce isn’t easy, and as experienced lawyers, we have seen it firsthand time and time again. With our guidance, we can help you determine how to proceed with your divorce: either through mediation or litigation, or starting with mediation first. Even if you have an uncontested divorce, keep in mind that divorce involves weighty decisions with long-lasting consequences. Because of this, it’s crucial to ensure you plan every step thoughtfully and with proper guidance.

If you are looking to divorce and want to know your options, Gille Kaye Law Group, PC can help. Our Call (626) 340-0955 or contact us online to get started.

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