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Divorce Mediation vs. Litigation Through the Courts

April 13, 2022
Divorce Done Differently in PA
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When a couple agrees to a divorce, many challenges lie ahead that can affect how long a divorce takes. A divorce will involve determining the value of all assets and debts the couple owns or owes and how they will be distributed between them. The divorce laws in this regard will vary for each state. What divorce process will work best for the couple is ultimately up to them. Some couples think divorce litigation is the only process available, but other options exist, such as mediation. Below is a comparison between divorce mediation vs. litigation.

Mediation Process v Court Process In General

Like with many aspects of life, many factors can determine how the divorce process will go. Many issues will need to be considered and resolved in divorce mediation vs. litigation, such as conflicting interests, scheduling issues, and other unforeseen events.

Mediation Process: An Overview

First, a couple needs to understand what the mediation process entails. The spouses should do some online research about mediation and mediators in their area. The couple should meet with a few mediators to interview them to decide which mediator is the best fit for their situation.

Both spouses must feel comfortable with the mediator they chose. They must make sure that they feel at ease with their mediator personally. They need to ensure that the mediator is experienced and knowledgeable. They need to understand the costs of mediation.

The mediation process is designed to ensure the divorcing couple reaches an agreement they consider fair for both of them. In the end, the mediator works with the couple to ensure that they are operating on an even playing field and that they focus on the best outcome for all. The mediator will help guide the couple in completing the many tasks and factors to consider in reaching an agreeable settlement. In addition, the mediator will facilitate discussions between the couple where each person can present their side of the story and the desired outcome they wish to achieve and then help the couple reach a compromise agreement. But ultimately, in the end, it is the divorcing couple in control of the process in terms of scheduling and determining the terms and conditions of their agreement.

Only one mediator is required to help both spouses together resolve. A mediator is generally paid a flat fee for their services. The couple determines how fast or slow their mediation process will take. As a result, the mediation process is faster and less expensive than litigation.

Litigation Process: An Overview

In litigation, each lawyer works with their client to fight for what works best for their client. The attorneys are not focused on what works best for the other side of the family as a whole. There is no discussion between just the parties to work out a settlement. All such discussions are generally tasked to the attorneys and the judges who decide the issues based on the law. The courts and attorneys control the scheduling and how information concerning the parties’ assets and debts is shared and then ultimately divided.

In addition, each party is paying its attorney. Each party will have to pay their attorney a hefty retainer, which will be depleted by the hourly charges for the attorneys and their staff and other expenses involved in preparing a court case. There are often delays and a lot of time wasted waiting for court cases to be scheduled and even on the day of trial for the judges to take the bench and afterward render a decision. This makes litigation a much more time-consuming and expensive process than mediation.

Mediation Process v. Court Process in Resolving Financial Issues

During the divorce process, what needs to be determined in terms of finances is how the assets and debts of the couple are to be distributed and if either party needs to pay the other party’s support.

Financial Issues in Mediation

The couple will need to gather all the financial documentation requested by the mediator to be shared. This is required to ensure that both the mediator and the couple have clear, complete, and full disclosure of all the couple’s assets and debts to be considered for distribution.

In mediation, the couple will clearly understand what has been or will be distributed from the combined assets and debts—having a clear idea of who gets what reduces the stress of the divorce process.

In mediation, the couple may consult with an attorney about the laws of their state concerning the division of marital assets and debts. They may also consult a certified divorce financial analysis to consider various scenarios in dividing marital assets and debt. This can help to divorce couples make a knowledgeable and informed decision concerning the division of their marital estate.

The couple will also look at their budgets for their separate households and consider their state’s laws to help guide them on the decision of support being paid between the parties.

Financial Issues In Litigation

A lawyer will work with their client to get all the financial information for the couple and the marital estate and all the dirt they can use against the other spouse to present the best case for their client in court.

In litigation, the couple may not clearly understand what has been or will be distributed from their combined assets and debts. This judge, not the couple, makes the decisions on how their assets and debts are divided based on the laws of their state. In terms of support, the state laws also determine the amount of support to be paid between the parties and whether or not it makes sense for their household budgets.

Mediation Process v Court Process in Deciding Custody Issues

If children are involved in a case, reaching a solution that creates the ideal conditions for the child is crucial. The issues to be considered can range from where the child lives and the school the child attends to how the financial responsibility for the child is shared. How the parties involved approach custody differs between divorce mediation vs. litigation.

Custody Issues in Mediation

In mediation, the parents work together to resolve issues about how to raise the child. The mediator will help the couple formulate a parenting plan involving the children. Issues that the parents will discuss and agree upon can range from sharing time with the child, schooling, extracurricular activities, and housing to creating the best living situation for the child.

Custody Issues in Litigation

In cases where the courts decide custody issues, the judge, not the parents, determines what works best for the child in determining where the child has to live and how much time the child spends with each of the parents. In making these decisions, the court will weigh various factors such as consistency in the child’s care, the living accommodations for the child, and the child’s general safety and well-being in determining which parent cares for the child. To try to succeed in winning time with their child, parents often wage costly and bitter court battles that are emotionally destructive to the child and each other.

Ultimate Decision

Suppose you and your spouse want to divorce by working together to divide your assets, debts, and household in a way that works best for your family rather than fighting each other to win, so the other person loses. In that case, mediation may be a good option for the two of you to consider.

How Much Will The Mediation Cost?

While the statistics vary between states, in Pennsylvania, the average flat fee cost of a mediated divorce is between $5,000 and 8,000 dollars. Some but not all mediation practices offer a free consolation to give you additional information about the mediation process, so check beforehand if there is a charge when scheduling your consultation. There may also be additional fees on top of the flat fee, such as fees for financial professionals such as appraisers, accountants, or certified divorce financial analysts. Other fees will be required on top of the flat fee rate, such as court filing costs and outside fees for preparing Qualified Domestic Relations Orders needed to divide 401ks and pension.

Want to Know More?

If you are interested in a consultation to discuss the options available to resolve your divorce, custody issues, support, or equitable distribution issues, please contact me and I can help you investigate your options. Call me, Lenore M.J. Myers, at 215-470-3121 or email me at