Getting divorced does not necessarily mean you have to go to court. You could settle amicably out of court, or you could use mediation if you prefer. Most people are not sure how to decide which of these options is appropriate for them. What is the difference between divorce mediation and litigation? Which one is the best for you?

What is a Lawyer’s Role?

The traditional route for most divorce procedures is to hire a lawyer and follow a process of litigation. In this case, you have to go to court and you have a lawyer who advocates on your behalf in an attempt to get you the most favorable outcome. Your spouse would then hire their own lawyer who would represent their best interests. The role of the lawyer is to advocate for the party that hired them, aiming to achieve the best possible outcome for that party. Lawyers represent only one party and will fight to build the best possible case for their client. The two opposing legal teams will enter into negotiations on behalf of their clients. If a resolution cannot be reached, the divorce will go to family court, where the lawyers will take their arguments to the judge in the hope of reaching an outcome most beneficial for their side.

When a case goes to court, the judge has the final decision over matters such as child support, alimony, and division of assets.

What is a Mediator, and What is the Mediator’s Role?

Mediation is a different process from litigation, and the role of the mediator is quite different from that of a lawyer. If you choose this option, you and your spouse will negotiate the settlement under the guidance of an independent, neutral third party, known as a mediator. The mediator’s role is to help both parties identify, negotiate and reach mutually acceptable agreements on the various issues and financial matters required to end their divorce. 

The mediator works with the spouses to help both of them identify, negotiate and reach mutual agreements on all the relevant issues. Although the mediator is an active participant in the process, the spouses make the final decisions in negotiation with one another. The power of final decision is not handed over to a judge, and the divorcing couple thus has more say over their respective futures. 

A family lawyer could serve as a mediator, but even people from other professions, such as financial advisors or mental health professionals, can fill this role.

Can I use a Lawyer in Mediation?

Yes. Your lawyer can guide you through the mediation process and offer guidance while evaluating compromises. Certain issues, while important to one party or the other, may be unlikely to get a favorable outcome when left to a judge to decide. A good family law attorney will advise you on these considerations, which can help you reach agreements in mediation.

When to Use Divorce Mediation?

Some of the reasons to choose a divorce mediator rather than an attorney are:

  • You would prefer to keep things peaceful. Along the same lines, if you decide you would rather keep things as friendly as possible, without the oppositional nature of litigation, mediation is the best option. You don’t have to be the best of friends or agree on everything, but you can end the marriage on a more peaceful note.
  • If money is an issue. Litigation costs thousands of dollars. Mediation also comes at a fee, but it is much more affordable.  
  • If you would like to wrap up the divorce as quickly as possible. Mediated divorces are concluded far more quickly than litigated ones. 
  • When you think you can settle some of the issues. Mediation doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing situation. If the parties have 5 items to resolve, for example, and mediation can bring an agreement to 3 of them, then only 2 outstanding issues need to be litigated in court. This can bring substantial savings to the overall process.

How to Find a Mediator in California?

Westover Law Group is a company of family law attorneys serving Southern California. Contact us for more information about divorce options, including litigation and mediation.