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Divorce Litigation or Divorce Mediation: Which One is Right for Me?

In my law practice at Comerford & Dougherty, LLP, I meet with many clients who are facing the prospect of a divorce. Some come to me already having heard something about “divorce mediation” as an alternative to a traditional litigation. The number one question they ask is, is divorce mediation a better choice than litigation for me?

If this sounds like a scenario you yourself might be facing, consider the following. There are three main variables that factor in to the divorce process when comparing the options: party control, time, and money. In this post, we’ll be exploring each in more detail.

Control

Parties who choose divorce litigation are choosing to hand the control of their case to a third-party decision maker (the court, or more specifically, a judge). Even after extended courtroom sessions and countless meetings at attorney’s offices, the results of a divorce litigation are still very unpredictable.

Parties who choose divorce mediation are choosing to maintain control over their case and its outcome. They are able to determine their own path forward and feel empowered to design a resolution that benefits them.

Time

The Unified Court System Annual Report provides that there were 474,440 civil filings in the NY State Supreme Court in 2010, including 45,618 newly filed uncontested matrimonial cases.This is a staggering statistic when thinking about how it plays a role in clogging the Court’s calendar and what it means for the length of your case. I’ve seen divorce litigation cases drag on for years.

On the other hand, parties who choose mediation are not controlled by the Court calendar, and simply have to choose a mutually-convenient time for themselves and the mediator. In my experience, most clients see their issues resolved in 8 to 12 hours of sessions, depending upon the complexity of the issues they are confronting.

Money

Additionally, when going through a litigated matrimonial, there are many legal procedures that must be strictly adhered to. These practices take a great deal of time to complete and can result in substantial legal fees. In New York, that usually means tens of thousands of dollars per-party.

The procedural rules in mediation are much more flexible, and the parties decide what information they need to make an informed decision. Additionally, mediators charge only for the time spent in-session with the parties, time that’s spent directly helping to mediate their case.

Conclusion

With all this acting as a strong case for a mediated divorce, the Courts themselves are now discovering and extolling the benefits of mediation. In fact, the New York Court System has created rosters of mediators who are directly referred cases. They’ve even created a helpful website solely dedicated to providing information on alternative dispute resolution.

Still, we want to present the full picture to someone facing the prospect of a divorce, and there are times when mediation simply isn’t the best or most appropriate choice. We’ll discuss other examples in an upcoming post.

About the Author

Maureen Dougherty, Esq.

Maureen Dougherty, Founder

Maureen is the founder of Dougherty Mediation Group and a partner at Comerford & Dougherty, LLP in Garden City, NY. In 2009, she began incorporating mediation and the collaborative process in her law practice. She went on to establish Dougherty Mediation Group in 2011 as a constructive alternative to litigation. She passionately believes that mediation is a far more equitable and productive process for dispute resolution.

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