Mediation and litigation are two different ways of solving problems in family law cases. The most significant differences between the two are:
Mediation is voluntary and informal. A neutral third-party mediator helps facilitate communication and negotiation between the parties. The goal of mediation is to reach a mutually acceptable agreement. On the other hand, the goal of litigation is for the court to decide on the issues.
In mediation, the parties have more control over the outcome of their case because they actively participate in discussions and decision-making. Each party can propose solutions that work best for their specific circumstances. In litigation, the judge makes the decisions based on applicable law and legal precedent.
Mediation tends to be faster than litigation. The parties can schedule mediation sessions at their convenience. Litigation often involves multiple court hearings, which may cause delays due to scheduling conflicts or backlog in court dockets.
Mediation is generally less expensive than litigation because it typically does not require formal procedures (except for the judge signing a final order if the parties reach an agreement during mediation). In litigation, the parties must file motions and sometimes hire expert witnesses. Litigation can involve significant costs related to attorney fees, court fees, discovery processes, etc.
Mediation is confidential by nature, and neither party can use what they discussed in mediation against the other party if they end up in court later on. However, litigation is a public process.
Both mediation and litigation have pros and cons depending on the individual needs of the parties and the complexity of the case, as well as how well the parties and their attorneys can get along and how willing they are to collaborate.
Individuals facing family law disputes should consider their unique situation before deciding which approach to take.