Divorce Mediation vs. Divorce Lawyer: Which Is Right for You?


Deciding to file for divorce is a highly stressful and difficult decision on its own. After you make the initial decision to end your marriage, it is only the beginning of the process. There will be many more decisions in your future, including how to share custody and parenting time of your children, how to divide your community property, and where everyone will live. Another decision you should make is what type of divorce you want to have – will you cooperate and try to agree? Will you fight it out in court?

There are many ways to approach a divorce, including the “traditional” method in which each spouse hires their own attorney to fight for their interests. There are other options that try to keep you out of court, such as divorce mediation. So, which approach to divorce is right for you?

Divorce Litigation Overview

When people discuss getting a divorce lawyer, they are likely referring to the litigation process. In this process, one spouse files a petition for divorce with the court and the case follows the traditional litigation procedures. This includes:

  • Filing motions
  • Discovery, when each spouse gathers information from the other
  • Settlement negotiations to try to agree on the various issues involved
  • Trial in front of the judge if you cannot agree on certain issues

Often, spouses can reach agreements through settlement negotiations, and many divorces never go to trial or need the court’s intervention. Many divorce lawyers are skilled negotiators who aim to resolve divorces as efficiently as possible out-of-court.

If a case does have to go to trial, however, it can be stressful and costly, and you largely lose control of the outcome. While your lawyer will represent you in court, the judge makes the ultimate decision regarding the issue at hand, which can affect your future. It is simply a reality that some divorce litigation cases make it to trial.

Divorce Mediation Overview

Divorce mediation does not involve a lawyer who has only your interests in mind or those of your spouse. Instead, the process is overseen by a mediator who is a neutral third party. The mediator has nothing at stake in the outcome and is there to encourage you to cooperate and take control of how your divorce is resolved.

You and your spouse will present your arguments to the mediator, who will then begin sessions intended to get you to reach a mutual agreement. If you reach an agreement, the court can approve it and issue it as part of your divorce order. If mediation is successful, it can be faster and less expensive than divorce litigation. It can also help you stay amicable and cooperative with your spouse, which can lead to healthier co-parenting.

You Do Not Always Have to Choose

It is not always a lawyer vs. mediation when it comes to divorce. You can speak with an experienced attorney who will know that mediation is an option. It is never a bad idea to have a lawyer advising you and representing you during mediation to ensure you do not agree to anything against your interests. Plus, if mediation fails, your attorney will be familiar with your case up to that point.