When facing troubles in your marriage, it can feel hopeless and like the end will never come. The good news is that you do not have to stay trapped in a marriage that is clearly over. Depending on the circumstances of your marriage, you may be considering mediation vs. litigation for your divorce proceedings. Most people have questions about the difference between the two options and which one is right for them at the end of a marriage. There are a few things you need to know about these two legal options for the beginning of the end.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is when a couple is ending their marriage and wants to avoid a court trial. It is still a divorce and dissolution of the marriage contract, but without going to court before a judge. Mediation usually takes place in a lawyer’s office or some other neutral space. The lawyer will either speak with both parties present at the same time or speak with each party individually. Mediation is used to come to terms with the specifics of the divorce, such as child custody and division of assets. Mediation is intended to make the process as civil and painless as possible without dragging each other through a court case.
What is Litigation?
Litigation is when a couple ends their marriage by going straight to a court room trial before a judge without mediation. This means that the terms of the divorce (child custody, division of assets, alimony, etc.) will be discussed in the court room with a judge making the final decision. This is what most people think of when they think of divorce. Litigation can also be used when the divorce is filed as a fault-based divorce wherein one party is accusing the other party for the downfall of the marriage through infidelity, incarceration, or one of the other recognized faults in Alabama.
Is Mediation for Marital Disputes?
Mediation may also be used for other reasons outside of ending a marriage and determining the terms. In some cases, a couple may use mediation to settle marital disputes in hopes of avoiding filing for divorce. In this scenario, the third party outsider listens to both parties as they negotiate on the matter at hand to reach an agreeable consensus or compromise. While this is a less common use of mediation, it may be useful to couples as they try to avoid divorce. Mediation of this type can also be used for couples who are already divorced but co-parent together. Mediation on parenting matters may lead to a parenting plan both parents can agree on thanks to the help of an unbiased third-party mediator.
Can Mediation be Used Instead of Litigation?
For some couples, mediation is used in place of litigation. While the divorce itself is still a legal process, the mediation step removes the need for litigation in the sense of a court trial before a judge. If a couple can agree on the terms of the dissolution of marriage in mediation, the divorce is a simple matter of filing the correct paperwork and waiting for it to be officially processed. Mediation can also be used by couples who will still end up in litigation. For example, a couple may be able to settle most but not all of the terms in mediation and need to go to litigation for the remaining issue they are unable to come to agreement on.
When Is It Time for Litigation?
Mediation is ideal for couples attempting to work out the terms of the divorce without going to court, but there may come a point when the mediation reaches a stalemate. If one or both parties are unwilling to budge and come to an agreement, there will be no choice but to start litigation. In manty cases, litigation is the only way to bring things to an end so both parties can move on with their lives. It is also worth noting that not all couples will be able to do mediation at all as part of the divorce process, especially in high-tension divorces where one or both parties simply want to fight it out as an act of spite against their spouse. Divorces where domestic violence or other prominent concerns are present may not be meant for mediation and may need to go straight to litigation as well.
How Can a Divorce Lawyer Help?
Whether considering mediation, litigation, or both as you reach the end of the marriage, a divorce lawyer may be able to help along the way. An experienced divorce lawyer will be able to work with you and your spouse through mediation or represent you individually if the case needs to go to litigation. Divorce is always a stressful process, but it can be handled with more civility when a lawyer is involved as an unbiased third party.