Everyone knows that ending a marriage is hard, but how hard it is depends on how you go about it. There isn’t a single formula for getting divorced, and therefore you have some flexibility regarding how you go about it. However, the two main options, a mediated or litigated divorce, are drastically different.
I sat down with Judith Goldberg, a prominent divorce and family mediator, here’s what she had to say:
In the vast majority of cases, it’s possible for couples to use mediation during their divorce, which can keep the process simpler and more civil. While litigation should ideally be used as a last resort because it’s expensive and can be far more painful. What exactly are mediation and litigation, and why might you choose one over the other?
What is a Mediated Divorce?
A mediated divorce is when you use an independent third party to keep the process amicable, and you discuss exactly what you want out of the breakup without resorting to fighting through lawyers. Presuming that both parties can still talk to each other in a vaguely reasonable manner, a mediator can make the process a lot easier.
While lawyers typically fight back and forth, making it take far longer and often leaving one person feeling destroyed, mediation is a team process. Often litigation is incredibly hard on the children, while mediation can sometimes even involve them.
What is a Litigated Divorce?
A litigated divorce occurs when lawyers discuss, without the presence of a mediator, the outcome of your breakup and often it will go to court if an agreement can’t be reached. In this case, the whole situation is examined through a magnifying glass which can be intrusive and painful for everybody involved as they try to come up with a solution for your finances, child arrangements, and property division.
1. Mediated can be Cheaper
The biggest cost of getting divorced is your lawyers. They cost hundreds of dollars per hour and a long drawn out litigated divorce can easily cost over ten thousand dollars if you fail to come to a simple solution early on. Mediation, on the other hand, is often far cheaper. While you’ll still have a lawyer and pay for a mediator, they charge far less, and the cost is split.
Similarly, because you are talking face to face and alongside a professional mediator you can often come to a conclusion incredibly quickly which saves you time and money. Overall, mediated divorces are far cheaper on average.
2. Litigated is Typically Harder on the Kids
Divorce is always going to hurt the children that you have, but how painful it depends on how drawn out the process is and whether they are forced to be involved. With mediation, you can often solve the issue without them, whereas litigation may require them to talk in a court or to multiple lawyers which can be harmful to them.
If you want to make the breakup go as smoothly as possible and to impact your children minimally, mediation is normally the better choice. It’s advantageous for your children to see you reconcile your differences to come to a solution according to Judith Goldberg, which allows them to see that you still care for each other despite the separation.
3. Mediated is Less Adversarial
The whole point of a mediated divorce is that it is less adversarial than litigation. Neither of you is out to win; you are looking for the optimal solution for both parties so that you can make a fair deal, and both leave the relationship happier than you otherwise would if you went to litigation. Overall, it’s a far more pleasant experience and helps you to avoid the horror stories about divorce that you’ll read online or hear from friends and family members.
Most Couples are Good Candidates for Mediation
The reality is that the vast majority of couples are good candidates for mediation. Divorce is always tough, and it’s understandable that you might be upset or angry with each other, but unless you are at each other’s throats the entire time it’s possible to do mediation. In fact, for most couples, it’s preferable because it’s a less brutal experience.
Many marriages end not because of some betrayal or pain, but because the partners have grown apart or fallen out of love. In this case, mediation is ideal because you harbor little resentment for the other person and can both strive to find a fair-medium that works well for both of you.