Divorce Mediation vs Lawyer: Which One is Best For You?

Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman, LLC. – Philadelphia Divorce Lawyers

You know you have options when it comes to your divorce, but how do you know what option is best for you and your family?

The Philadelphia divorce lawyers and divorce mediators at Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman explain the differences between divorce litigation and divorce mediation and when each is appropriate. 

If you have questions about how to proceed with your divorce, we can help. Call Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman to discuss your case and determine whether divorce litigation or divorce mediation is right for you.

Differences Between Divorce Mediation & Litigation

Divorce mediation is a collaborative process during which a couple meets with a neutral third party professional and negotiates solutions to the issues arising from their divorce, such as child custody, child support, spousal support, and property distribution. The goal is to craft solutions which work best for their family, and the couple is entirely in control of the outcome.

Divorce litigation can be  necessary when:

  • the couple cannot come to an agreement on one or more of the issues arising from their divorce;
  • there is a power imbalance and one of the spouses needs someone to advocate for them;
  • one of the spouses is wasting or hiding marital assets;
  • one or both spouses are too angry or resentful to communicate with one another; 
  • the decision to divorce is not consensual; or
  • One party is seeking to “win” the negotiation rather than look for a solution that benefits all parties concerned. 

In these cases, both parties have divorce lawyers who advocate for them in court, and a judge hands down decisions regarding child custody, child support, spousal support, and property distribution.

What is a Litigated Divorce?

In a litigated divorce both parties have divorce lawyers who advocate for their interests before a family law judge.

Litigated Divorce Process

The process of litigating a divorce depends upon whether the decision to divorce is consensual or non consensual.

In a consensual divorce, the lawyer for one of the parties files a divorce complaint and serves it upon the other party. This triggers a 90-day “cooling off” period. When this cooling off period expires, and if the parties have agreed to solutions to all of the issues arising from their divorce, the parties sign an affidavit agreeing to the divorce and the court grants the divorce.

If one of the parties does not agree to divorce, the other must wait one year from the date they separated before they continue processing their divorce.

Should I Litigate My Divorce?

Ask yourself the following questions. If the answer to any of these is yes, you may have to litigate your divorce.

  • Am I unable to talk with my spouse?
  • Is my spouse unable to talk with me?
  • Am I a victim of domestic violence?
  • Is my spouse a bully to such an extent that meaningful “give and take” will not be possible?
  • Am I able to advocate for myself?
  • Is my spouse wasting or hiding marital assets?
  • Is my spouse trying to turn my children against me?
  • Is my spouse unwilling to divorce?
  • Are there any issues such as child custody, child support, spousal support, and property distribution we cannot agree on?

Average Cost of a Litigated Divorce in Philadelphia 

According to one source, the average cost of a litigated divorce in Pennsylvania involving no children is $14,300. If the couple has children, the average cost of their Pennsylvania litigated divorce increases to $21,500.

In reality, the cost of your litigated divorce depends upon whether you both agree to divorce and how contentious your divorce is. Your divorce lawyer charges by the hour, and the more hours they must prepare your case and advocate for you in court, the more it costs.

What is Divorce Mediation?

Divorce mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution which allows the couple to negotiate and craft their own solutions to the issues arising from divorce, such as child custody, child support, spousal support, and property distribution.

Divorce Mediation Process 

The couple meets with a divorce mediator after providing them with all of their personal and financial information. The divorce mediator is a neutral third party who facilitates discussion of the couple’s issues and helps them negotiate solutions.

Is it Better to Use a Mediator for Divorce?

Divorce mediation is not necessarily “better” than divorce litigation for some parties in the circumstances outlined previously. For couples who can effectively communicate with the help of a divorce mediator, it can be empowering, much less traumatic, and much less expensive than divorce litigation.

Is it Cheaper to Use a Mediator for Divorce in Philadelphia?

In most cases, it is. The cost of divorce mediation depends upon the complexity of the issues requiring resolution, the willingness of the parties to negotiate, and the number of mediation sessions required. However, a successfully mediated solution will likely be less expensive than going to court

Is Mediation Better Than Going to Court?

For many couples, it is. Mediation spares their family from the expense and trauma of adversarial litigation, empowers them to decide for themselves what child custody arrangements, support, and property distribution they want, and gives them the negotiation skills to collaborate on family decisions going forward.

Collaborative Divorce

In a collaborative divorce, the parties are ready to divorce and do not intend to punish the other party. Collaborative law, like divorce mediation, provides a less confrontational environment for couples to develop creative solutions to matters such as child support, custody and property division without the threat and expense of court. 

Unlike mediation, both parties have divorce lawyers to advocate for them. These lawyers are contractually bound to withdraw from representation if the case deadlocks and moves to litigation. 

A collaborative divorce is often fairer and quicker than litigation because each party has their own lawyer, and the parties and lawyers often employ divorce coaches, therapists, financial neutrals and others to help them work through their issues and obtain the best results for their family.

Cooperative Law

Similar to collaborative divorce, cooperative law allows the parties the opportunity to work out the issues surrounding divorce amicably and without court involvement. Unlike collaborative divorce, the parties are not contractually bound to work out an agreement. Rather, they agree to enter an informal discovery process and exchange information without waiving their rights to go to court.

Divorce Mediation vs Lawyer – Which One Should I Choose?

You may be attracted to mediation but believe there may be problems you cannot solve that way. Know that when you choose divorce mediation, you do not waive your right to go to court. You can mediate some issues and litigate others if mediation fails.

When to Choose Mediation Over Litigation

If you are willing to negotiate, believe you can come to an agreement on most issues, and have children and want to work together on the child custody arrangements while gaining skills to work together going forward, divorce mediation may be right for you. If you have a high asset divorce and you want privacy and the opportunity to work with experts on the division of marital property, divorce mediation is for you.

When Going to Court for Divorce is Preferable

If you cannot advocate for yourself, believe your spouse  is hiding or wasting assets, or   believe your spouse  is too angry to collaborate with you , then you may need a divorce lawyer to advocate for you in court.

Those engaging in divorce mediation often get stuck on one issue and cannot resolve it themselves. In these cases, they litigate only that one issue.

Speak With a Divorce Lawyer Today

If you are weighing your divorce options, call us. We explain all divorce options available to you and what options may be appropriate for you given your family’s unique circumstances. Let us help you get through your divorce and get the best results for your family. Call today.

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