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Deciding Between Litigated Divorce vs Mediation in Virginia

Married couple looking over documents pertaining to divorce in mediation

Family courts and the legal community at large prefer mediated divorce over courtroom divorce. 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 more cost-effective than divorce litigation.

A contested divorce case in Virginia might cost each party about $5,000 to $10,000 in lawyer retainer fees. Even if the divorce is uncontested, an attorney would still likely charge thousands of dollars – from $2,500 to $5,000. These fees could increase the longer the litigation drags on. A highly contested Virginia divorce could even amount to as much as $30,000 – and that’s for each spouse.

Mediation costs much lower than this. A safe estimate of Virginia mediator fees would be between $300 and $350 per hour. Let’s say you have two mediation sessions that lasts for three hours each (a typical scenario). At most, the total fees might be around $2,100. Further, this expense will be shared between you and your spouse, meaning that you may have pay only about $1,050 or less.

Note that all these figures are estimates meant to give you a general idea of the price difference between the two procedures. You’ll still need to talk with your mediator of choice regarding their specific rates.

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

Courtroom divorce is notoriously lengthy. It has an adversarial nature, so each party fights the other, causing lots of roadblocks and delays. It also doesn’t help that each courtroom session has to be accommodated 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 opposing each other. On average, the whole mediation process takes about two or three sessions. Some cases even take just one session to resolve.

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. They discuss their issues together and arrive at resolutions together. There is no judge to decide for them. The mediator is present only to facilitate the discussion, not to make decisions for the couple.

In short, mediation allows each divorcing spouse to take control of their future and that of their family. 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 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 the more favorable arrangement. This is why this type of divorce often escalates to bitter and stressful battles. In the process, each spouse may feel more resentment towards each other, and children who are caught in the middle are likely to suffer psychological or emotional trauma.

Mediation intends to avoid these negative impacts. This process always aims for the most peaceful discussions and solutions, easing 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.

When Mediation May Not Be The Best Option

Even though in majority of cases, divorce mediation is an advantageous option, there are still a few situations where it may not be the best choice. A concrete example is if there is abuse or violence involved in the case. In this scenario, it may not be suitable for the abused spouse to have to face the abuser. It might also be better to have the court rule on this tough case of marriage dissolution.

What if you and your spouse are simply not willing to talk or face each other? Since discussions are a vital aspect of mediation, this process cannot proceed if even one party isn’t communicating.

Another scenario is if there is a great imbalance in the spouses’ decision-making. For instance, one party may be psychologically dependent on the other, or one of them is highly manipulative. Since the outcomes of mediation depend largely on their decisions, this scenario might not lead to a fair agreement.

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