What Is The Difference Between Litigation And Mediation In Divorce?

Couples who are divorcing have several options as to how they wish to handle the process. This decision will have a profound impact on the length of time and amount of resources required to divorce. Additionally, the process you choose will have influence over important matters such as custody, child support and the division of assets. For these reasons, you’ll want to carefully consider your options and understand the different pros and cons for each so you can choose the process that will best serve your needs.

Litigation and mediation are the the two most common processes for handling a divorce. Depending upon the circumstances of your divorce, you will find that one presents itself as the more favorable option. Let’s take a closer look at the unique advantages and disadvantages of each.

Pros And Cons Of Litigation In Divorce

With litigation, each party retains his or her own lawyer and all divorce matters are taken to court where decisions are made by a judge or master. Often this process is more contentious and adversarial than mediation, it is commonly more expensive and time consuming as well.

Participants find it stressful and emotionally draining when judges and masters make decisions for them regarding their assets, their income and their children. When you relinquish control of the decisions in your case in custody litigation, you no longer have the final say in the schedule of time you have with your children, where they attend school or where they live. When litigating matters of divorce, you lose control over decisions related to the family home, the division of retirement assets and the responsibility for debts accumulated during the marriage.

While these are some of the drawbacks to litigation, a benefit to litigation is that it will force a reluctant or uncooperative party to a final resolution. While parties may be uninterested in concluding a divorce, the authority of the court to render final decisions means that a person who seeks closure and finality can achieve it.

Pros And Cons Of Mediation In Divorce

Mediation is a process in which a neutral third party helps guide the parties to resolution of all or some of their issues. The mediator does not judge the case, but helps facilitate discussion, limit the issues, and put them in perspective to resolve disputes efficiently and cost-effectively.

There are different styles of mediation including facilitative, evaluative and transformative. A facilitative mediator helps guide the parties through the process but doesn’t offer opinions, advice or predictions about the likely outcome of the case if litigated. An evaluative mediator usually has specific experience regarding the type of case being mediated as well as experience in the court where the parties’ dispute would be heard. As a result, the evaluative mediator can help the parties reach resolution by providing insight into the likely outcome of the case if litigated. A transformative mediator assists the parties in developing and recognizing their own needs and interests as well as the needs and interests of the other party to achieve an optimal outcome for all parties.

When both parties are committed to reaching a resolution, mediation in divorce and custody matters is typically less expensive, more durable and more efficient than litigation. Mediation allows for divorcing couples to respectfully resolve their issues while achieving outcomes that are often far more desirable than what a judge or master may decide on your behalf.

While rare, one drawback to mediation is the inability of the mediator to impose deadlines on the parties. Where one party is reluctant to proceed for emotional or financial reasons, the mediator does not possess the same authority as a judge or master to schedule hearing and issue binding decisions.

Litigation VS Mediation In Divorce


  • Adversarial
  • More expensive
  • Time-consuming
  • Public
  • Decisions made by a judge or master


  • Collaborative and amicable
  • Preserves family relationships for co-parenting
  • Less time consuming
  • Less expensive
  • Private
  • The Parties control the timing and content of all decisions

Contact Colgan & Associates For An Experienced Divorce Mediator

If you or someone you care about is going through a divorce, reach out to our experienced divorce mediators at Colgan & Associates. We are passionate about helping to divorce couples achieve efficient and favorable outcomes that enable them to move forward with their lives.

The first step is a no-cost phone call where we can discuss your situation and advise you of the best options available to you for resolving your matter quickly and peacefully. Talk with our friendly and caring family law attorneys today by calling (717) 790-2048.

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