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Costs and Benefits of Divorce Mediation vs. Courtroom Divorce


If you are in the beginning stages of filing for divorce, you probably have a lot of questions about how it all works. You may have not even been aware that there is an alternative to traditional courtroom divorce litigation, but in fact there is: divorce mediation is rising in popularity thanks to its typically lower costs, low-key approach and elimination of a need for an attorney. However, divorce mediation isn't for every situation. Here are the main advantages and drawbacks to both courtroom divorce proceedings and divorce mediation, so you and your soon-to-be former spouse can choose which method is best for you.

Courtroom Divorce Litigation:
Pros: The traditional courtroom divorce is still the most common form of divorce in the United States, and involves a divorcing couple to each retain an attorney, file for divorce and be present at one or more hearings to dissolve the marriage and negotiate the settlement. One of the advantages of a courtroom divorce is having an attorney on hand to provide legal counsel and representation. This can be especially important if the divorce is particularly complicated or messy, or if there is a child custody issue involved.

Another advantage to a courtroom divorce is that the soon-to-be ex-spouses typically don't have to spend that much time talking to one another- the attorneys representing them can handle all of the issues involved in the divorce settlement without both parties having to actually speak to each other. Once again, this may be beneficial for couples who are truly unable to even be in the same room as one another without fighting, or if one spouse has a restraining order against the other for any reason; in cases where spousal abuse or domestic violence is involved, a courtroom divorce is absolutely necessary for this exact reason.

Cons: While a courtroom divorce can provide you with the extra protection and counsel of having legal representation, it is certainly more costly of an option than divorce mediation. The fees you incur from the moment you retain your attorney begin to add up almost immediately, with your lawyer billing you for in-office appointments as well as phone calls, including calls they make to your former spouse's attorney to settle issues. In addition to attorney fees, you and your soon-to-be ex are looking at court costs which can become quite expensive depending on the number of hearings you must undergo before the divorce is finalized.

Additionally, courtroom litigation can be quite a bit more emotionally draining on everyone involved than divorce mediation typically is. Having to stand before a judge and attend hearings can take its toll, especially if these hearings get ugly. If you and your spouse have children, it can be particularly hard on them to see their parents battle in court. Unless the issues you have truly require court to resolve them, a courtroom divorce can be a lot more taxing on everybody, which you should definitely consider when making your choice.

Divorce Mediation:
Pros: One of the biggest reasons most couples opt for divorce mediation is the significantly lower cost. An average divorce mediation can cost 40-60% less than courtroom litigation, which can be a huge deciding factor. Being able to save that much on costs of your divorce can help each of you retain money, which will be extremely beneficial as you begin your new chapter.

In addition to the significantly-reduced costs, many people appreciate the more laid-back, communication-driven approach of divorce mediation and prefer it to traditional courtroom litigation practices. Being able to resolve an issue by talking through it face-to-face with your soon-to-be ex-spouse in the presence of a divorce mediator can be a lot more productive, not to mention a lot less intimidating, than being in a courtroom with attorneys and a judge present. This is especially true in cases of amicable divorce, where both parties wish simply to dissolve their marriage with little or no acrimony or anger.

Cons:
Divorce mediation is only the best option if there are no additional legal matters involved. For instance, if there are any domestic violence, drug or alcohol charges related to the divorce litigation, or if there is a child custody battle involving abuse or neglect, then a divorcing couple must by all means involve the court. Additionally, if a couple is absolutely able to resolve any issues on their own and cannot even bear to be in the same room together, then it is probably not advisable to ask them to sit down at a divorce mediation table together for several sessions in a row.

Another drawback to divorce mediation is that, since the marriage is dissolved without involvement from the court, there will be no court-ordered agreements in place. This means that if a spouse suddenly stops paying child support or maintenance, it will be difficult if not impossible to take legal action without any legal binding documents on file with the county and state in which the divorce took place. If you think you are at risk of having your ex-spouse default on any agreed-upon maintenance or child support payments, you may wish to opt for courtroom litigation.

Whether you choose divorce mediation or courtroom divorce is up to you- because no two divorces are exactly alike, there is no "best" one-size-fits-all option for everybody. When you weigh the pros and cons of divorce mediation and courtroom litigation, you will be able to see which method of marriage dissolution is best for your particular situation.


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