Divorce Mediation vs Litigation: Which is Best for You?

Divorce is possible without ever having to hire attorneys or go to court. How?

By choosing divorce mediation—the healthier approach that has become popular due to its many advantages over litigation.

Let’s take a look at how mediation and litigation compare. Specifically, we’ll look at their:

  • approach,
  • cost,
  • timeframe,
  • confidentiality,
  • level of cooperation,
  • level of control,
  • level of conflict,
  • potential impact on children, and
  • likelihood of success.

In the end, you’ll have all the information you need to decide which approach is best for you and your family — litigation or mediation.

What is divorce mediation?

Mediation is a collaborative method of completing a divorce — without ever going to court. Spouses meet with a divorce mediator who hears each of their perspectives and helps them work toward agreement on each topic of divorce.

Mediators are skilled at strategically helping spouses communicate to find common ground and peacefully resolve conflicts. A third-party mediator helps create productive dialogue and encourages cooperation between spouses so that they can create customized agreements on all divorce topics.

This is a picture of three people sitting at a table.

Since the final divorce decree is a legal document, the legal system is only involved in terms of the court reviewing and approving the final documents after mediation.

The benefits of mediation have been proven. It tends to be quicker and less costly than traditional litigation. Plus, it helps spouses complete their process in a more amicable way, which can positively impact you, your spouse, and your children.

What is divorce litigation?

In traditional divorce litigation of days gone by, a divorce was resolved purely through the legal system, which research has shown can cause long-term psychological harm to children and result in far less advantageous outcomes compared to mediation.

In litigation, each spouse has to hire an attorney to argue on their behalf.

During the trial, each attorney focuses on their client’s interests, attempting to win as much as possible for them. Doing so often involves attacking their spouse’s character, leading to more conflict and emotional turmoil for the entire family.

Litigation can cost an ever-increasing amount of money since the spouses must each pay for expensive divorce lawyers who charge by the hour, in addition to court costs and filing fees.

Divorce mediation vs litigation: How do they differ?

Below, we will explore the differences between litigation and mediation divorce processes.

Professionals involved in the settlement process3rd party mediatordivorce lawyers, family law judge
ApproachCollaborative process, cooperative approachCombative process, adversarial approach
Conflict levelLowHigh
Average cost per spouse $2,000–$4,000$15,000–$20,000
Time 2 to 4 months12 to 18 months
ConfidentialityPrivate, confidential processCourt documents are public record
Impact on childrenA collaborative approach protects children’s well-being.The adversarial nature of litigation can be traumatic.
Level of cooperationHighLow
Likelihood of both spouses being satisfied with the agreementsHighLow
Level of controlHighLow

Number and type of professionals involved

Mediation meetings are typically handled by one third-party mediator who works with and supports both spouses.

Professional and experienced Aurit Center Certified Mediators guide you every step of the way, keeping conflict as low as possible to protect the well-being of everyone involved.

Having legal knowledge and experience, a mediator explains relevant aspects of the law and legal system–in other words, they will provide helpful legal information to ensure each spouse feels informed.

Litigation, on the other hand, most often involves a minimum of two opposing divorce attorneys. Each attorney fights to get as much as possible for their client, regardless of the conflicts or issues it might cause now and in the future.


In litigation, lawyers can make the divorce process an all-out battle. In the courtroom, they focus relentlessly on getting the most they can for their client, with less regard for how it will impact the other spouse or the children. Research confirms that parental conflict during divorce causes harm to children’s emotional health, so the increased conflict that litigation fuels directly affects kids’ well-being.

In short, the litigation process is adversarial and competitive, whereas mediation is collaborative.

The mediator guides a focused, thoughtful, balanced, and positive conversation that helps the spouses reach an agreeable solution.

The mediator raises every issue at hand and helps spouses explore their options. Experienced mediators often share examples of agreements they have seen in similar circumstances while also providing creative options that are personalized to each spouse’s needs.

Even if you choose to only mediate certain issues, such as your parenting plan and child custody, any agreement reached in mediation will help you avoid costly court battles.

Cost of divorce

Attorney’s fees and court costs make the average cost of a divorce around $15,000 to $20,000 per spouse — which is much more than the cost of mediation. Complex divorce cases can cost even more.

This is a photo of a notebook, pen, phone, wallet, and cup of coffee.

A mediated divorce tends to cost 80–90% less than a litigated one — between $2,000 and $4,000 per spouse.

Aurit Center Certified Mediators offer all-inclusive flat fees that are most advantageous since they are predictable and allow for unlimited communication during the process. Flat fees support the financial stability of both spouses moving forward.

In litigation, hourly billing creates an incentive for attorneys to add fuel to conflict and draw out the case.


Some states mandate a minimum time requirement for divorce proceedings to be completed. The mediation process itself can be completed in less time, but some states have a waiting period that determines how soon a divorce can be finalized. For example, Arizona divorces must take at least 60 days from start to finish. In California, the waiting period is six months.

Mediation at The Aurit Center typically takes two to four months to complete. Sometimes, reaching all agreements is done in as little as one to two meetings, and spouses can choose to begin implementing their agreements even before the divorce is final.

Notably, once the final divorce documents are signed and the mediation process concluded, there is nothing left to do except wait for their state’s waiting period to end and for the judge to sign their documents, finalizing the divorce.


One of the biggest benefits of divorce mediation is the level of privacy it provides. Everything discussed in mediation is legally protected as confidential.

The details of a litigated divorce, on the other hand, become part of the public record. A lawyer-driven divorce that plays out in court is part of the public domain, so almost anyone can access these records online. That includes children, grandchildren, family members, and other people you may not want to know all of the details of your case.

“In mediation, anything discussed with the mediator always remains private.”

Furthermore, divorce trial attendees may hear details that the spouses wish to keep private.

Impact on children and families

Litigation of any kind risks creating tension, conflict, and resentment among family members, which can have lasting emotional and psychological effects.

This is a photo of two parents walking with their child.

Litigation often takes the focus away from the kids during the divorce process. Spouses have less time and energy to spend with their kids, and the cost of the litigation only adds to the stress of the entire family.

Litigation may not stop after the divorce, either. Litigating a divorce sets litigation as the precedent for solving any problems that arise, meaning it can continue for years on various issues. When parents litigate, children spend a significant portion of their childhood watching their parents fight in court.

Unfortunately, children often blame themselves for the conflict between their parents, which can take a massive toll on their mental health when conflict is not kept as low as possible.

“Mediation reduces conflict and increases cooperation. Children benefit tremendously when they see their parents work together.”

Mediation’s collaborative approach facilitates a healthier co-parenting relationship during and after the divorce. This can help your children adjust much more easily.

Most importantly, mediation puts the needs of the children first and helps parents create a parenting plan that benefits and protects them. This is unlike litigation, which may result in a parenting plan that benefits one spouse — potentially at the children’s expense.

Likelihood of being satisfied with the agreements

Litigation creates a more adversarial environment during the divorce process. Regardless of which side “wins,” it can lead to resentment after the divorce, negatively impacting everyone involved.

Additionally, the precedent that divorce litigation sets for resolving future problems can lead to further financial and emotional strain for the spouses.

Mediation helps ensure that the co-parents will cooperatively carry out the terms of the Decree and, ultimately, be satisfied with the agreements, having collaboratively created them in mediation.

his is a photo of a sunset.


Working with an Aurit Center Certified Mediator can help you and your spouse avoid the litigation process completely. The mediation process is a thoughtful and respectful path to divorce that helps you find the best possible outcome for you and your family.

With mediation, you can save time and money, stay true to yourself, and continue to be the parent your children need.

Schedule a free consultation today to learn how we can help you and your spouse have a healthy divorce process.

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