Why is mediation usually less expensive than litigation?
When a happily-ever-after marriage doesn’t follow the script, the story often ends in divorce. To calm contentious waters, couples must consider settlement and while litigation is a common outcome, mediation is another option. This non-binding process involves both spouses meeting with a third-party mediator in an attempt to resolve as many issues as possible ahead of time and reach agreeable, fair solutions.
Mediation takes place away from traditional court proceedings and can be voluntary or ordered by a judge. In fact, Michigan courts strongly recommend mediation over litigation; the significant time and money saved for everyone involved goes a long way in setting the foundation for an amicable outcome and positive future for the parties, and especially when children are involved.
How does it work?
The mediation process starts with each spouse selecting a mediator, or being appointed one. Issues in dispute (property, spousal and child support, attorney fees) are then presented at a mediation appointment. Mediators are trained specifically in conflict resolution to foster respect between the parties that inspires productive conversation trending toward a settlement. When an agreement is reached, the results are filed with the court. If an agreement is not reached through mediation, the case moves to the court for a final decision.
How mediation saves money over litigation
One of the most impactful benefits of mediation is time. Litigation is an inefficient process and very expensive, with cases prone to drag on for weeks or even months. Cases sent to trial can potentially take longer yet and result in only one party walking away as the “winner.”
Mediation on the other hand is a more informal process that can often be completed in a single day. Other benefits include:
- Less stressful than courtroom settings
- Proceedings are kept confidential
- Parties involved have more control over the outcome and individual wishes are considered
- The couple is not subjected to a bitter court battle environment
- A fair and agreeable settlement is reached
An average mediation proceeding costs $500-$2,500 and involves an initial consultation, preparation of a settlement agreement and any additional documents involving parental plans, child support, or custody, dissolution filings and potentially a follow-up meeting.
Litigation, however, is a much more complex process. It starts in similar fashion to mediation with a consultation but then includes an array of additional tasks that boost the cost to around $30,000 or more. Some of the steps a divorcing couple can expect with litigation include:
- Attorney retainer
- Filing of summons, petition and pleading
- Serving and responding to discovery
- Preparation of financial affidavit and disclosure
- Preparation of and responding to motions and fees
- Securing any experts or witnesses
- Arranging hearings and court appearances
- Attending co-parenting classes and preparing a parenting plan
- Attending trial
Mediation doesn’t promise to make the divorce process painless, but it does allow both parties to control their futures and create a resolution unique to their situation while saving precious time and money. It is also far less stressful and ultimately results in a positive life situation for each person involved.
Too much information?
We focus exclusively on family law matters so we are always available to answer your questions and help.