What Is the Difference Between Mediation and Divorce?

Many married couples throughout the United States eventually decide to end their marriages. They may become romantically detached from one another, experience acute problems like infidelity, or may simply realize they are incompatible as spouses for the long term. It’s common for people in this situation to wonder what their best options are for solving their difficult situations. Some people mistakenly believe that mediation is an alternative to divorce, but the reality is that mediation is an alternative to divorce litigation. You can end your marriage with the mediation process, and there are several advantages to choosing this option in lieu of divorce litigation.

What Is Divorce Mediation?

Think of divorce mediation as a settlement negotiation for a divorce case. Instead of going to court and enduring lengthy trial proceedings, you and your spouse can save time, money, and frustration by undergoing the mediation process. During divorce mediation, you and your spouse will privately negotiate every aspect of your divorce under the guidance of a neutral mediator. This mediator cannot hold any conflicts of interest that would favor either of you nor can they provide either of you any legal advice. Their job is to guide discussions, clarify relevant legal statutes, and help the divorcing couple draft their divorce agreement.

While it is technically possible to complete divorce mediation on your own without the help of an attorney, legal representation can be incredibly valuable for anyone anticipating a divorce in the near future. You can have your attorney by your side through some or all of your mediation sessions. They will help you ensure your mediation outcome is fair and reasonable, assisting you with gathering necessary documentation and clarifying legal statutes that are likely to arise during your sessions.

Benefits of Mediation

The primary benefit of divorce mediation is savings. The mediation process saves a tremendous amount of time for both spouses, typically requiring only a fraction of the time usually required for divorce litigation. Litigation can take several months or even longer than a year to complete, whereas mediation can potentially conclude within a few weeks or a month or two. Saving time means less money spent on legal fees for both spouses.

Beyond saving time and money, mediation offers several other benefits as well. The process is entirely private, while court proceedings become public record. If you litigate your divorce case, everything said in divorce proceedings will become public record. When you mediate, the record of your divorce becomes public, but everything said during your mediation sessions remains completely confidential. Since many divorce negotiations will require discussion of deeply personal topics, the privacy afforded by mediation alone can be enough incentive for divorcing people to choose this option instead of litigation.

Finally, mediation offers you the chance to retain more control over the outcome of your divorce order. When you litigate your divorce, the judge overseeing the case has the final say on every aspect of your divorce order. They will use their best judgment to reach what they deem to be a fair and reasonable outcome, but there is no guarantee the judge will see things your way no matter how compelling your side of the case may seem. When you choose mediation, both you and your spouse have the ability to reach a more personalized outcome to your divorce case.

Why Choose Mediation Instead of Litigation?

Experiencing any type of court case can be incredibly stressful, especially when the case revolves around a deeply personal issue such as the end of your marriage. Litigation is notoriously tedious, stressful, and expensive, and there is no guarantee that the outcome of your court case will align with your expectations. If you are preparing to end your marriage in the near future, it’s worth considering the aforementioned benefits of divorce mediation. The litigation process could take up to a year or longer, and you will spend much more on your legal fees than you would if you choose mediation.

Retaining more control over the outcome of your divorce case can also prove beneficial for the future. Many divorced couples eventually return to family court to address issues with their standing divorce orders. They may require reduced or increased child support, they may need to hold the other accountable for failure to uphold their obligations under their divorce order, or they may have experienced a recent life change that requires modification of their family court order.

When you have more control over the outcome of your divorce process by choosing mediation, there is less of a chance that you will need to go back to court to change your family court order. If a judge decides everything, it’s more likely that you and your ex-spouse will have further legal issues in the future, incurring more legal expenses and requiring more time and stress from both of you.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Divorce Mediation?

It’s important to understand the value of legal representation when you decide to end your marriage. If you are litigating your divorce, you absolutely need the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney to help you navigate the court’s procedural requirements and complete your divorce process successfully. However, legal representation is also important for the mediation process.

You cannot expect to receive any legal advice from your mediator. They may only guide discussions and help the divorcing couple draft their divorce agreement; they are legally barred from offering direct legal advice to either of the divorcing spouses. While you may believe that you and your spouse are amicable enough to manage civil negotiations without an attorney, it is always safest to have legal counsel on your side to ensure your divorce mediation results in a divorce order that is fair, reasonable, and as amenable for the future as possible.

Attorney Paula D. Kleinman and her team can provide the legal counsel you need to take full advantage of the benefits of divorce mediation. We understand that your divorce may be one of the most challenging events of your life and want to help you approach the situation with confidence and clarity. If you are ready to explore your options for ending your marriage in California, contact Paula D. Kleinman today to find out how our firm can assist you.

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