Is Mediation Less Expensive Than Going To Court?

Is medi­a­tion less expen­sive than going to court?  Yes and No.  And should cost be the deter­min­ing fac­tor in decid­ing whether or not to use medi­a­tion?  Again, Yes and No.

Is Mediation Always Less Expensive?

While medi­a­tion is often less expen­sive than going to court, that is not always the case.  It often depends on the issues that you are fight­ing about.  A full blown lit­i­gated divorce case which includes issues of how to split assets such as retire­ment accounts, real prop­erty and busi­ness assets, along with issues of cus­tody and par­ent­ing time and child and spousal sup­port can eas­ily end up cost­ing $15,000 or more by the time the court case is done.   It would be rare for a full blown medi­a­tion to cost any­where near that sum even if you are using attor­neys and other pro­fes­sion­als such as finan­cial advis­ers dur­ing the medi­a­tion process.  However, if you are involved in a high con­flict fam­ily rela­tion­ship, a good medi­a­tor will need to spend a lot of time devel­op­ing a safe and effec­tive process to assure that the par­ties at the table get all the infor­ma­tion they need to make fully informed agree­ments and to do it a way that is safe and empow­er­ing to every­one involved in the process.  More con­flicted rela­tion­ships require not just more face to face meet­ings but more case devel­op­ment and prepa­ra­tion work on the part of the medi­a­tor in between meet­ings and the use of impar­tial experts to come up with mutu­ally agree­able val­ues on assets and other finan­cial mat­ters.  In such cases, the medi­a­tion process can end up cost­ing sev­eral thou­sand dol­lars.   But you need to remem­ber that in cases where par­ties fight it out in court, each party is spend­ing $15,000 or more just on his or her own attor­ney and experts, while the other party is spend­ing the same amount on their own attor­ney and duplica­tive experts.  In medi­a­tion, the costs are usu­ally shared by both par­ties and only one set of agreed upon experts need to be consulted.

Should Cost Be The Determining Factor in Deciding on Whether or Not To Use Mediation?

Cost should def­i­nitely be ONE fac­tor.  Why dis­si­pate all of your assets fight­ing about them if you have another alter­na­tive?  However, each case is dif­fer­ent and you have to weigh the pros and cons of each process as it applies to your indi­vid­ual sit­u­a­tion.  For instance, if there is a his­tory of severe phys­i­cal domes­tic abuse in your rela­tion­ship, it is prob­a­bly not appro­pri­ate for medi­a­tion unless you are work­ing with a medi­a­tor who is highly skilled in eval­u­at­ing you case and assur­ing that mea­sures are in place to main­tain safety and power bal­ances and who can con­tin­u­ally eval­u­ate the sit­u­a­tion to deter­mine if medi­a­tion should con­tinue.  There may be other cases where going to court is more appro­pri­ate as well.  A good medi­a­tor will help you eval­u­ate the pros and cons of using medi­a­tion ver­sus going to court, not only before you start medi­a­tion, but through­out the process.


Posted in Choosing a Mediator, Divorce & Child Custody, Domestic Violence, Family Conflict, Mediation Tagged with: , ,

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