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Mediation vs. Litigation: Pros and Cons for Resolving Your Divorce

— September 20, 2023

You must be aware of your state’s guidelines regarding mediation. While it’s a private affair, local governments may have some regulations to guide the process.

It’s not uncommon for marriages to shatter overnight, even for those couples who seem to have it all. And with this comes the burden of divorce. 

Between 2000 and 2021, the U.S. alone had close to a million divorces each year. Emotions run high, sadness mix with denial and anger. Then there’s the hefty costs involved, uncertainty about the kids’ future, financial woes, loss of shared dreams, and possible isolation from mutual friends and family.  

In the midst of all these, you must decide how to end the marriage. Two potent options are mediation and litigation. This guide sheds light on the dynamics, pros, and cons of these two marriage dissolution routes. 


Many divorcing couples opt for mediation. You and your spouse invite a neutral third party, referred to as the mediator, to facilitate communication and help you reach mutually agreeable resolutions. 

Its foundation isn’t winning or losing the case. The intention is to find a middle ground. In this regard, you collaborate with your spouse in a bid to end the union amicably, without the usual push and pull of divorce.  

Preparing for divorce mediation involves choosing a suitable service. Family law firms usually offer these services. Also, you must be aware of your state’s guidelines regarding mediation. While it’s a private affair, local governments may have some regulations to guide the process.

It sounds ideal, but the devil might be in the details. Below is an outline of its pros and cons:


Mediation is popular among divorcing couples for the following reasons:

  1. Cost-effectiveness: Private divorce mediation typically costs between USD$3,000 to USD$8,000. 

On the other hand, the average cost of a divorce through litigation is USD$15,000 to USD$20,000. The difference tells it all. So, if you want to save money, go the mediation way.

  1. Swift resolution: Mediation wraps up things faster than court hearings. At a time of such emotional distress, getting done with the legalities helps you find closure soon and move on with your life.
  2. Confidentiality: Mediation is conducted privately in the presence of only three people: you, your spouse, and the mediator. No washing dirty linen in public.
  3. Unique resolutions: With mediation, you can dissolve the marriage, share marital property, and determine child custody in whichever way you like, as long as you agree.
  4. Reduced conflict: To reiterate, mediation isn’t meant to battle it out with your spouse and prove a point. It focuses on wrapping up the union amicably. Thus, the typical emotions that arise with such a split are softened.

In short, mediation is a quick, cost-effective, and undercover approach to ending a marriage.


It’s never all rosy with mediation. Below are some downsides you may want to consider before going that route:

  1. Potential dominance by one spouse: One party can hold more sway and overlook the other spouse’s needs and concerns. Even though mediation encourages cooperation, some people are naturally authoritarian, and it may disadvantage the timid one.
  2. Lack of legal enforcement: Mediation agreements aren’t legally binding. So, if any party decides not to honor the deal, there’s no law to turn to. It may only take the mediator’s services to talk again and streamline the issues.
  3. Possibility of pending issues: Sometimes, mediation doesn’t resolve everything. Complex issues like child custody, visitation rights, division of significant assets, disagreement over marital debt, and inheritance conflicts might still need court hearings. In essence, you’ll have two parallel proceedings, which may be draining.

These downsides may make you rethink mediation, but if the benefits outweigh them, go for it.


Tense looking couple on sofa; image by Cottonbro Studio, via
Tense looking couple on sofa; image by Cottonbro Studio, via

This is the conventional divorce route involving lawyers, judges, and a jury at times. It’s a formal and structured procedure, with state laws governing it. Judges use the rule of law to determine things like child custody and alimony. Below are its typical pros and cons:


Litigation is liked by many because of the following reasons:

  1. Legal backing: When a court passes a judgment, it’s final, and all parties must adhere to the provisions. Anyone who doesn’t comply may face legal penalties, including asset seizures, fines, jail time, or withholding of earnings.
  2. Clear structure: Litigation follows a predefined format from the beginning to the end. You know beforehand the documents required, the hearings to attend, and the timelines to adhere to. Well-laid-out procedures are a relief in such a time of emotional turmoil.  
  3. Definitive closure: The end of litigation, signified by the bang of the judge’s gavel, spells the ultimate closure of the divorce proceedings. Decisions are made, disputes settled, and all parties can move on with their lives. It’s an essential strategy to cope with divorce.

With adequate funds, you’d want to choose litigation over mediation because of the above benefits.


Litigation isn’t without downsides, and these are as listed below:

  1. High costs: To reiterate, divorce costs, especially through litigation, may be prohibitive for many couples.
  2. Time implications: Court proceedings are often riddled with delays that can drag the case into several years, if not months. Such a prolonged period of uncertainty might be unbearable.
  3. Less privacy: Many court proceedings are public record, meaning members of the public can attend, unless the judge demands a closed courtroom for overly sensitive issues. You may not want your family issues to be known by all and sundry.

These are the issues that may influence you to choose mediation over litigation.


Choosing mediation over litigation, or vice versa, requires careful consideration of each option’s advantages and disadvantages. Family law attorneys can offer you insightful advice on what’s best for your case. Sometimes, a hybrid of the two may work wonders.

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