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Deciding Between Litigated Divorce vs Mediation in Virginia

Married couple looking over documents pertaining to divorce in mediation

Even family courts, judges, and the legal community at large prefer mediated divorce over courtroom divorce for very good reasons. But to help you decide in your specific case, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of these two proceedings.

Cost Of Mediated Divorce Vs. Cost Of Litigated Divorce in Virginia

By far, divorce mediation is much more cost-effective than divorce litigation.

A contested divorce case in Virginia usually costs each party from $15,000 to $20,000 in lawyer retainer fees for each party. Even if the divorce is uncontested, attorney fees will still be higher than costs in mediation. These attorney fees will increase the longer the litigation drags on. The high cost of divorce in Virginia adds insult to injury at a very uncertain and difficult time. There is an alternative.

Length Of Litigated Divorce Vs. Length Of Mediated Divorce in Virginia

Courtroom divorce is notoriously lengthy. It has an adversarial nature, so each party must fight/oppose the other, naturally causing roadblocks and delays. It also doesn’t help that each courtroom session has to be scheduled within the open timeslots of the courthouse – and those can come weeks or even months apart. Because of these, a traditional divorce can last months or even years.

On the other hand, mediation can fast-track a divorce, even when the spouses dispute certain matters. Mediating helps couples rationally find common ground instead of unreasonably opposing each other. On average, the whole mediation process takes about two or three sessions. Some cases even take just one session to resolve. This can be a difference of weeks to years.

How Much Control Each Spouse Has

In litigated divorce, a judge listens to each spouse during a hearing and then makes the final decisions regarding their disputes. In other words, neither of the divorcing parties has the final say on what is going to happen to their respective futures. That is up to the court.

By contrast, mediated divorce encourages each spouse to make decisions for themselves and come to an agreement. All final decisions are up to the parties themselves. There is no judge to decide. The mediator is present to guide the parties through the process.

In short, mediation allows each divorcing spouse to take control of their future. This is even more important when children are involved – both parents have an opportunity to decide how their child grows up, instead of leaving this highly important and emotional decision to a judge.

Emotional Impact Of Divorce – Litigation Vs. Mediation

Divorce litigation and divorce mediation have contrasting natures. Litigation has an adversarial approach – each party fights it out with lawyers to get a more favorable arrangement. This is why this type of divorce often escalates to bitter and stressful battles. In the process, each spouse will feel more resentment towards the other, and children who are caught in the middle are likely to suffer.

Mediation intends to avoid these negative impacts. This process always aims to ease the emotional strain of separation. A mediated divorce is likely to have less confrontation, less resentment, and less stress. Often, at the conclusion of the divorce, the ex-spouses stay amicable or civil with each other. Further, research shows that children of mediated couples go through a less-traumatic episode in their life, helping decrease the chance of long-term emotional issues. Divorcing Moms and Dads remain Moms and Dads.

When Mediation May Not Be The Best Option

By a wide margin, mediation is almost always by far the best option in divorce. However, if there is or has been abuse or violence in the marriage, mediation might not work since open communication might not be possible. Litigation might be the better option to maintain some healthy distance between the parties.

What if you and your spouse are simply not willing to talk or face each other? Since discussion is a vital aspect of mediation, this process cannot proceed if one party will not participate or communicate. Mediation is and must be voluntary.

Another scenario is if there is a great imbalance in the spouses’ playing field. For instance, one party may be psychologically dependent on the other, or one of them is highly manipulative. Mediators are trained to assist in this contingency, but the parties also need to participate.

In conclusion, divorce mediation has many great benefits, but you and your spouse will still have to decide if this is suitable for your specific situation. If you are trying to determine if mediation will work best for your divorce, don’t hesitate to talk to us at Holcomb Mediation Center. We are ready to answer your questions.