You’ve seen it many times on your favorite TV show or in a movie: a major court case is finally resolved by a settlement agreement. Both sides go home happy and the credits roll on yet another successful court venture.
But, is that really the way this ends up? Is mediation a better alternative than actual litigation? What’s the difference between the two? Which option will lead to a more favorable outcome in your case?
It’s simple: in mediation, both parties sit down together and hash out an agreement; in litigation, you take your case to a judge and the court determines the outcome. Some attorneys push their clients to go into mediation, thinking this is the best option. But, is it? Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of each.
In mediation, both parties and their respective attorneys sit down, with a third-party-neutral and hash out an agreement. There is no court proceeding, and the meetings are confidential and private. This process is more cooperative and amicable (hopefully) than going to court. If both parties are amenable, you can take an issue to mediation at any time.
Why would you choose mediation? The biggest reason would probably be cost. It costs less to work out a divorce agreement between two parties than to take it to court and have a judge make a decision. Mediation can be faster than a court trial as well.
One thing people don’t realize about mediation is that it’s private. There’s no public record of the meetings. For some people, that can be a major piece of mind during what is a very stressful process.
It would be nice to live in a world where divorce or custody cases can be settled by just amicably meeting across a conference room table and working things out in a peaceful fashion.
Unfortunately, that’s not how it goes for some people.
If your ex is being overly hostile, is contesting numerous aspects of your divorce, or just will not agree with you on numerous issues, mediation is not going to be an effective option. You will need to pursue litigation. You may also need litigation when one of the persons involved has fled or is missing (thus making mediation impossible).
In litigation, both parties take their case in front of a judge, who will then issue a binding ruling. Litigation can be expensive, lengthy, and will produce a public record.
You’re probably thinking at this point why you would ever choose an adversarial process over an amicable one. There are several reasons why you might want to think twice before going to mediation.
You might spend time and money in mediation only to find that you can’t reach an agreement. In that case, you are going to have the court decide everything for you anyway. Not only that, but now, having put all your cards on the table, the other party is aware of all the things you are going to bring up in court. That’s not exactly a winning strategy.
In a courtroom, both parties are represented by attorneys and have an equal chance to sway the judge. In a mediation process, one party may not have the resources or power to adequately get what they need out of an agreement. There are procedures that have to be followed in a court proceeding that are not present in a less formal mediation. You also have more protections in court than you do in mediation.
Finally, there is no formal discovery process in mediation. If you have to have certain information from the other party in order to present your case, they are not obligated to release that information in mediation. You have to trust the other person in mediation; that’s not the case during litigation in court.
An experienced family law attorney can sit down with you and weigh the specific pros and cons of your case. They can help you decide which is the better option: mediation or litigation.
One family attorney who has had much success with both mediation and litigation is Edidiong Aaron at Family Matters Law Group in Henry County. She has worked with numerous clients all over the metro Atlanta area, and she believes that mediation can be an option when it is reasonably fair and favorable to her client.
But, she also has the legal acumen and knowledge to go into court and fight for the best interests of her client. She’s exactly what you need in a hostile divorce or custody case.
Contact Family Matters Law Group today using our convenient online contact form. You shouldn’t be making major decisions in a family case without conferring with an attorney first!