Although I am a longtime litigator, in my opinion mediating a family law matter is often the better option in today’s family law environment. Here are some reasons why:

  • We have a changing family law judiciary: More and more inexperienced judges are being assigned to the family law bench. With mediation, you do not have to deal with the uncertainty of going before an inexperienced judge.
  • Litigation is expensive: Theaverage divorce costs at least $50,000 to litigate. Mediation is tens of thousands of dollars less expensive.
  • Parties can remain amicable (or more amicable than if they were to litigate): This is not to be taken lightly if children are involved and the parties need to interact with each other for the rest of their lives.


Let’s Take a Real-Life Custody Case For Example

Divorced for a few years, a mother and father have two young children. The mother comes to me saying she and her children need to move from Central California because she wants to marry a man who lives in Southern California. Mom has primary custody of the children. The children want to move to Southern California (at least according to mom), and mom believes the schools are better.

Since the primary custodian (mom in this case) holds the right to move as long as she can show that she has “sound, good faith reasons for the move,” it seems easy enough for mom, right? 


What Happened in Litigation?    

The couple went to court to battle it out. This was a serious matter so the court continued the case a few times to ensure it had all the facts, thereby driving up costs. A request for minor’s counsel delayed the case even more and drove up costs. The two-day trial resulted in extensive preparation and court-time, again driving up costs. At trial, we won, and mom got to move, but even after trial, the parties continued to fight over the holiday schedule. As a result, the case ended up costing well in excess of $25,000 in attorneys’ fees and taking more than a year to finally resolve.


What Could Have Been the Result in Mediation?   

Had the exes in the above example mediated their custody issues, mom could have agreed to reduce child support and reimbursement for transportation costs in exchange for her ability to move. Rather than fight over each holiday one by one, we could have addressed what the real sticking points were and divvied up the holidays that way. The end result would have been far less expensive, more time efficient, and more amicable for the exes moving forward.


Lessons to Walk Away With

If you are involved in a family law dispute, be financially savvy and explore mediation as an option, as opposed to litigation. It will inevitably save you tens of thousands of dollars that you can keep for your legacy. It will also leave you happier in the long run because you will feel like you had a say in the outcome of your case.