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Choosing Between Divorce Mediation vs Court

July 9, 2020 — by John Conger
Tags: Divorce Mediation

A paper model of a house next to keys and a gavel

Couples who decide it is no longer healthy to stay in their marriage have options about how to handle their divorce. Today, the divorce lawyers of Shore, McKinley, Conger & Jolley, LLP would like to take a closer look at divorce mediation vs court. If you live in Stockton, CA, or Walnut Creek, CA, and are facing the end of your marriage, our attorneys are standing by to guide you through the process so you can begin to move on with your life.

Resolving Issues Through Mediation or Court?

Before a divorce can be finalized, several issues need to be resolved. The most common of these include:

  • Spousal support
  • Child custody and parenting time
  • Child support
  • Division of marital property
  • Division of marital debt

Divorcing couples can choose to resolve these issues through mediation or by going straight to court. Both processes have their benefits and disadvantages. Choosing which process to use largely depends on the unique needs of each divorce.

About Divorce Mediation

With divorce mediation, spouses try to resolve issues out of court before finalizing their divorce. A neutral third party mediator, which may be a divorce attorney, works with both parties to help come up with a fair settlement. This allows you to retain a certain amount of control over the outcome.

Once an agreement is made, couples choosing mediation will still need to go to court to officially dissolve the marriage. The court will review the settlement agreement and if approved, it will be added to the divorce judgment.

About Divorce Court

When divorce is taken straight to court, a judge or commissioner will decide how marital issues are resolved.

The process can be long and begins with discovery, which can take two to six months to complete. During discovery, both spouses must provide all relevant financial documentation and any correspondence or other evidence to support their claims in the divorce.

After discovery, there may be several court proceedings to resolve all issues, such as child custody and spousal support. It can take a year or more to resolve all issues and finalize the divorce.

Deciding Between Divorce Mediation vs. Court

Those who are looking for a fast dissolution of their marriage and believe they can come to an agreement over marital issues, like dividing property and child custody, may benefit from divorce mediation. Divorce mediation can be completed based on the timeline of the divorcing couple, unlike divorce court which is subject to its own timetable.

Other factors to consider when deciding between divorce mediation and court include:

  • Cost: Divorce mediation often saves divorcing couples money by avoiding many of the costs associated with going straight to court, like discovery and trial fees. 
  • Privacy: When divorce is taken straight to court, personal and financial information is made public record, including any accusations one spouse may make against another, via declarations filed to the court. Filed declarations are not made during mediation, which allows personal and financial information to remain confidential. 
  • Control: Generally, couples who choose to go directly to court do so because they do not believe they can amicably resolve marital issues and need the court's assistance. As a result, a judge or commissioner decides the divorce settlement. In contrast, those who want to maintain control over the division of property, deciding child custody and parenting time, and other divorce issues may be better served by mediation.
  • Relationship between spouses: Although mediation is often the simpler process for divorce, it's not always the best route. Many spouses are often unwilling to compromise or have a history of abuse, which can make mediation an unsafe option. In such circumstances, allowing the court to decide the divorce settlement may provide the best path forward.

Contact the Attorneys of Shore, McKinley, Conger & Jolley, LLP

Divorce can be complicated but with a knowledgeable attorney on your side it doesn't have to be a difficult process. To schedule a consultation with one of our Stockton attorneys, please reach out online or call (209) 477-8171.