Divorce Mediation vs. Litigation

Articles Of Interest

June 19, 2023Author: Grant Moher, Esq.

Divorce Mediation vs. Litigation

There are out-of-court options to help you and your spouse settle your divorce. These methods are known as “alternative dispute resolution” (ADR). ADR includes mediation and arbitration. Alternative dispute resolution can help a divorcing couple agree on child custody, asset division, or custody/alimony payments. 


Alternative Dispute Resolution 

What is the difference between mediation and arbitration? There are some similarities and some differences.

  • Mediation is structured like court proceedings but less formal. Mediation is an interactive process where a mediator helps you and your spouse reach an equitable settlement. Mediation is a voluntary process, and the outcome is legally binding once you sign a written agreement. Mediation sessions sometimes include co-mediators, your lawyer, a business appraiser, a translator, or other related parties as needed. 
  • Arbitration is similar to mediation, except that the arbiter (like the mediator above) will decide on how the assets should be divided if the couple cannot agree. This process is also known as binding arbitration because the decision of the arbitrator is enforceable by law. Often, if a couple cannot reach an agreement through mediation, they will then try arbitration. 

Both methods of ADR tend to be cheaper, faster, and easier than litigating in court. You do not need to be represented by a lawyer to use either method of ADR. Some mediators will not let attorneys attend mediation sessions. 


Benefits of Using Mediation 

Mediation has a lot of benefits, which is why it’s so popular: 

  • Mediation is faster than court – what takes months in court can often be resolved in an hour of mediation
  • Mediation costs less than litigating in court
  • Mediation is less formal than court, which means a more friendly, laid-back atmosphere 
  • Mediation is confidential, don’t worry about reporters or news cameras

People who use mediation report that the resolution was typically beneficial to both sides, felt more personal, and fostered a cooperative environment that will make the future relationship easier to manage. 

Couple shaking hands

What Does Mediation Cost?

In Virginia, mediation costs vary. If your mediator is also a lawyer (some of them are), expect the price to fall on the higher end, though you can still save money by avoiding litigation. Typically, both parties share these costs so there is no concern that the paying party is being favored. 

Can I Have My Divorce Lawyer with Me At Mediation? 

Some mediators allow attorneys to be present in sessions and others do not. However, you want guidance from a lawyer even if they cannot be in the room. Without your advocate by your side, you could unknowingly agree to a settlement that may not be as favorable as it should be. Without a lawyer to inform you of accepted standards, procedures, or rights and responsibilities, a key detail could be overlooked. 

You can still plan with a lawyer, so you walk in there informed and with a clear strategy. Before you sign a mediation agreement, always have your attorney review it. 

Contact a Fairfax Divorce Lawyer Now

Curran Moher Weis is a team of passionate Fairfax divorce lawyers with the legal experience to help you through your divorce and stay out of court. Contact Curran Moher Weis today to begin the process now. 

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