Mediation vs. Trial

When you or your spouse are considering divorce, it’s only natural that you should have a lot of questions about how to move forward. Divorce is a stressful, disruptive process that most couples want to get through as painlessly as possible, both emotionally and financially. Although going directly to court may sound like the better option to theoretically get it over with as fast as you can, many divorcing couples have found mediation to be extremely helpful in expediting the process with less angst. Additionally, a nonconfrontational, mediated divorce based on compromise can be a better option for those wishing to gain more autonomy in the final outcome.

Benefits of Mediation

Filing for divorce requires the resolution of outstanding issues, such as child custody, dividing up finances and property, and alimony before the divorce can be legally finalized. Without mediation, these decisions go into the hands of the courts and every aspect of the marriage is on the table. Ultimately, what the judge or jury says goes, and you’ll have to live with it. You may lose some battles in the courthouse that you could’ve won if you’d had the chance to talk them through with your spouse and a mediator.

Heading straight to a polarized trial also means that you’ll likely spend more money on legal fees than you would if you went through mediation beforehand. Battling things out in court takes a lot of time, money, and energy, and everything is on record. While mediation may also take some time, it is probably going to be less expensive. Plus, nothing you say can in the mediation room becomes part of the public record. Mediated divorce is very commonly helpful for divorcing couples who want to end their marriage as tactfully, cooperatively, and as efficiently as possible. It also can minimize the turmoil on your children. Because both partners agree on most or all issues instead of leaving it up to a judge, mediated divorce outcomes are often more sustainable in the long run.

How Contested Divorce Works

As noted above, when a divorcing couple takes their case to court without trying mediation first, a judge must resolve all of their issues. A divorce formally begins when one spouse files a divorce complaint or petition. In a contested divorce, the fight begins in earnest when the case subsequently goes into what is known as discovery. This process can take a while because it requires each spouse to produce documentation relevant to the divorce. This inventory includes tax returns, bank account information, real estate, credit cards, investments, pensions, business records, and other assets and liabilities, and sometimes emails or texts that have to do with the reasons for divorce. Divorce lawyers sometimes have to interview witnesses as part of putting the spousal assets under a microscope.

When all this has been done, spouses unable to agree about finances, alimony, child support, or other divorce-related issues must abide by a judge’s decisions. Some of these issues can also result in prolonged legal wrangling. Divorce is often expensive, but a contested divorce is undoubtedly the most pricey, usually costing thousands of dollars and sometimes taking a year or more as the parties stubbornly jockey back and forth. A contested divorce may the only alternative for some couples whose relationship has totally broken down, however. Most couples who are splitting up find that resolving issues outside of court, however, results in an easier, less unpleasant settlement.

How Mediation Works

A mediated divorce doesn’t mean that you avoid the courts altogether. Rather, it means that after you file for divorce, you and your spouse can attempt to reach an agreement on contested issues in a private setting with the help of the mediator. In an ideal scenario, the result is an uncontested divorce, in which all the outstanding issues are nailed down before the court schedules the case for a hearing. In this kind of divorce, each spouse agrees to the settlement, and ideally, the judge merely signs off on it in the final divorce decree. As a result, Interaction with the court system is minimal. It’s advantageous for divorcing couples who think they are or may be capable – with a little help from an impartial mediator — of ending the marriage on terms fair to both.

Even for divorcing couples who worry about being able to negotiate with their spouse without anger, the mediation process can still be the best option. By hopefully finding the middle ground, a mediator can sit down with the parties and their lawyers to help them come to reasonable conclusions about their case. A good mediator is there to listen to both sides and help divorcing couples move on as amicably as they can.

If you have an especially antagonistic relationship with your spouse, mediation may still be viable for you because the interaction between spouses need not be lengthy. The mediator can even meet with you and your spouse in separate rooms and thus engage in a form of shuttle diplomacy. In fact, airing out grievances to a mediator away from the presence of your spouse can be very helpful and even liberating.

How do you know if mediation is right for you?

In some instances, going to trial might appear to be a better option than trying mediation first. This might be because the couple can’t see eye to eye on anything, out of concerns about an overbearing or abusive spouse, or even trouble over articulating their own interests. Good mediators, however, are usually able to overcome these barriers and help couples settle their issues in a safe and healthy environment as a prelude to a final divorce judgment. Still, every marriage is different, and every case presents different circumstances. It’s always best to discuss your feelings and questions about mediation with a lawyer who is familiar with the process.

Contact Us for Mediation Services

At Kessler & Solomiany, LLC in Atlanta, we’ve seen many cases where mediation has helped a couple go through a divorce in a timely, less-contentious, and cost-effective manner. Each attorney in our firm is a qualified, active mediator who is ready to help you and your spouse proceed with your divorce on your own terms. We think of ourselves as family lawyers rather than divorce lawyers. Our highest priority is to treat each client with the respect and dignity that they deserve, especially during such an emotionally fragile time as divorce. If you’re ending your marriage and want to avoid going to trial, contact Kessler & Solomiany, LLC at (404) 688-8810 for more information about a mediated divorce and how it could benefit you. Please note that when an attorney at Kessler & Solomiany, LLC acts as a mediator, we do not and cannot act as a divorce attorney for either party. Nor do we give legal advice. The only legal advice upon which a mediation participant should rely is that of their own, independent attorney.