Divorce is never easy. And if it’s your first experience with the New York court system, it can only make the process more overwhelming. The thought of disputing complex financial investments, child custody, and more in front of a courtroom of witnesses is intimidating, but many divorce cases never even have to see the inside of a courtroom. Divorce mediation provides spouses with a much less stressful alternative to settle divorce cases in Suffolk County, NY.
So to decide if it’s the right path for you and your family, it’s important to understand the key differences between divorce mediation and divorce litigation.
What is Divorce Mediation?
When a couple pursues divorce mediation, a neutral third party is chosen to meet with both sides to guide them toward an amicable resolution. This process, which is either initiated by a couple or ordered by a judge, is led by a professional mediator who both parties have agreed upon to help the spouses come to realistic agreements concerning equitable distribution of investment assets, property ownership, child support, child custody, and other related issues over the course of a few weeks.
The mediator chosen should have extensive experience and knowledge in divorce and family law, and even better, a licensed attorney. This background will help ensure their ability to negotiate effectively, but also provide the emotional support to help you navigate the process and move forward.
What is Divorce Litigation?
In a divorce litigation, both parties will retain their own legal counsel to put forward separate cases. A Summons with Notice or Verified Complaint, etc. is filed and served on the defendant and then an Answer is served and filed. From there, both parties will enter the discovery process where they will prepare a case to present before a judge. This could be to determine the division of assets, who will have primary or legal custody of a minor, what support will be provided, etc.
Attorneys may look for evidence to use against the opposing party in order to obtain the outcome that’s best for their client; in regards to anything from the mental or physical status of the other parent, ability to provide a stable home, assets/income one spouse may want to hide, etc. Gathering this evidence can only elongate the process while your actual court date will also be at the mercy of the judge’s busy schedule.
Key Differences Between Mediating and Litigating a Divorce
While each method aims to resolve the same issues, the values and approach couldn’t be more different. As a result, there are numerous differences to consider when choosing which is best for your case.
- Mediation Offers Speed & Control
Since mediation focuses on cooperation and mutual agreement, there are no courts or judges overseeing every detail and making the decisions for you. The outcome is determined by you and your spouse together, giving you control of the experience and how long it takes. Even if mediation doesn’t result in a full agreement, the process will allow you to narrow the issues in dispute for litigation, offering very little risk to couples who attempt this method first.
- Mediation is Less Expensive
During the litigation process, both spouses are responsible for attorney and court fees – including discovery, delays, trials, and all communication between lawyers. Not to mention that the more you’re willing to pay for better representation, the better your chances at a favorable outcome. Mediation doesn’t require either side to be represented and the courts aren’t involved, which results in a fair settlement and a lot of money saved for both parties.
- Mediation is Confidential
In Litigation, in the event there is a trial, your personal life will be on display in the courtroom. And that courtroom is open to the public. In Mediation, the situation between you and your Spouse is totally private.
- Mediation Encourages Creative Solutions
As a much less formal process than courtroom litigation, mediation allows for a free exchange of ideas and opinions by both parties. This eliminates the tension and defensiveness of a ‘one side vs. the other’ structure. The process is designed to encourage creative solutions and a much quicker, favorable outcome for both spouses.