Is Divorce Mediation Less Expensive Than Litigation?

July 28, 2019 2:16 pm Published by Leave your thoughts


Is Divorce Mediation Less Expensive Than Litigation?

July 19, 2019, by Attorney Michael L. Lavender

The fees to simply retain an attorney for each party in a divorce start around $5,000 for an average case. That means you will spend $10,000 minimum just to get your divorce case started.

Attorneys will then charge additional fees for time spent on the case after the funds from the retainer are exhausted.

In contrast, the total cost of mediation from beginning to end is typically less than the fees a couple will spend just for retainer for one lawyer to represent one party. Mediation is truly a fraction of the cost of litigation, for which you pay handsomely for all of the invasive court mechanisms of distrust compelling financial disclosure.

Also, typical mediations last no more than a few months, possibly up to six months for complex cases. A traditional divorce is usually resolved within three years and only after extensive time is spent on financial discovery, meetings and court appearances. There are many cases that go beyond 3 years, especially when children are involved.

Reasons to Consider Mediation

Statistically, most of all family law cases settle prior to trial. With probabilities high, it isn’t a question whether a case will settle but when it will settle. A non-mediated divorce will include:

  • Attorney fees, including interrogatories, depositions, four-way conferences between lawyers.
  • 1-2 years of personal stress and uncertainty
  • 1-2 years of stress on family members
  • 1-2 years of stress on others and work associates
  • 1-3 years of lost concentration and focus on work
  • Life/business on hold for 1-2 years
  • Inability to “get on with life” for 1-4 years
  • Negative publicity on press/business circle

If resolution is to be by litigation, the following additional transactions costs may be added to the above:

  • 1-5 weeks of lost employee time preparing for court
  • Extraordinary cost of a trial
  • Embarrassment and loss of goodwill when relatives/friends/business associates are subpoenaed to court
  • Expert witness fees
  • Loss of control over your life to professionals
  • Loss of value by court-ordered sales of real estate.
  • Cost and repeat of all previous factors if there is an appeal
  • Life and health eroding anxiety throughout.

What these lists do not consider are the benefits “to the soul” of choosing mediation. For example: what is the cost of having a former spouse/co parent who resents you for all of the things that were said in court that now cannot be unsaid, and how toxic or non-existent that will make your post-divorce relationship.

Also, imagine the experience of children growing up in a context where both parents loathe each other. As the children will no doubt feel the hostility and fear generated by litigation, it will have a direct impact on the children’s self-esteem and self-worth, which will make their lives more difficult to navigate as they mature given their ability to experience your love will be obscured by all of the fear and chaos. What is THAT worth?

Lastly, while all the bulleted reasoning above is valid, no one should be “scared” into choosing mediation. Optimally, mediation should be chosen because it is a much wiser and self-loving way to deal with conflict, and by seeing the truth that it is in your self-interest that your former spouse, as well as you, also be achieve a basic satisfaction with the agreement. People who are truly interested in living happy lives are well served by minimizing negativity in their lives, relationally or legally, and by avoiding the family trauma that is built into going to war with someone who was once beloved to you.

For more information contact Capecodmediation/Attorney Michael L. Lavender at

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