Divorce, a deeply personal and life-altering event, often brings a host of legal and emotional challenges. In California, as in many other places, couples seeking to dissolve their marriage often pursue one of two common options: divorce mediation and divorce litigation

Each approach offers distinct advantages and disadvantages, making it crucial for couples to understand the differences and choose the right path for their unique circumstances. 

In this article, we’ll delve into the differences between divorce mediation and divorce litigation and provide insights on selecting the most suitable approach for your family law case in California.


Divorce mediation: Collaborative resolution

According to Leon F. Bennett, an acclaimed divorce attorney in Woodland Hills, CA, divorce mediation is a collaborative process in which a neutral third-party mediator assists the couple in reaching mutually agreeable decisions. 

These decisions are made on issues related to property division, child custody, alimony, and child support. The mediator facilitates communication and guides the discussions, aiming to find common ground and avoid the adversarial nature of litigation.

Advantages of divorce mediation in Los Angeles

Control over decisions 

Divorce mediation empowers couples to maintain control over their decisions rather than leaving them in the hands of a judge. This can lead to more personalized and satisfying outcomes.


Less adversarial

The mediation process promotes open dialogue and cooperation, helping reduce conflict and fostering a more amicable relationship between ex-spouses, which is particularly beneficial when children are involved. Moreover, using the court to arrive at resolutions, as with divorce litigation, creates a dynamic where each party tries to convince someone else that they are right. 

This dynamic in litigation can make things more combative and separates a divorcing couple from understanding how they impact each other.



Mediation is generally less expensive than litigation since it involves fewer court appearances and legal proceedings. With the costs of each party paying for expensive legal teams and long, drawn-out legal arguments being required, litigation naturally becomes more expensive than divorce mediation. 

Furthermore, sometimes court battles will require expert witnesses and third-party evaluations, which can create even greater financial burdens for all involved.


Faster resolution 

Mediation typically results in quicker resolutions, as couples work together directly to find solutions rather than waiting for court dates. Additionally, the more amicable nature of divorce mediation means that heated disagreements that require more and longer legal arguments can more likely be avoided.



Divorce mediation discussions are confidential, providing a safe space for open communication without fearing public exposure. In contrast, divorce litigation happens within the courts, which leads to more individuals being involved in the process and a more public nature to the negotiations.

divorce differences

Considering the differences between divorce litigation and mediation can make a painful parting a little more amenable.

Divorce litigation: Legal resolution through the courts

Divorce litigation involves each spouse hiring their own attorney to represent their interests in court. A judge makes decisions on contested matters, often based on the evidence presented by each party’s attorneys. If you are in California, an experienced divorce litigation attorney in Los Angeles can help you clarify your needs or goals and advocate for you in court.


Advantages of divorce litigation in Los Angeles


Legal protection

Litigation can be a suitable option when one party believes their rights or interests may not be adequately protected through mediation. Sometimes the relationship between divorcing spouses is so antagonistic that they cannot come to a peaceable conclusion through other means, and the terms for the divorce end up being fought out in court.


Clear legal rulings

A judge’s ruling provides clear guidelines on issues such as property division, child custody, and financial support. However, explicit and clear decisions can also be made through divorce mediation. In mediation, each party comes to a collaborative agreement instead of the decision being made by the court.



Attorneys bring legal expertise to the table, ensuring that all legal aspects are considered and advocating for their client’s best interests. In this sense, with litigation, each attorney may leave no stone unturned to ensure every item is addressed and potentially contested to benefit their corresponding party.



Court orders are legally binding, which means they can be enforced if either party fails to comply with the terms. However, mediation agreements can be binding as well.


Enforcement in Divorce Mediation

Divorce mediation agreements are generally enforceable in California, provided they meet certain legal requirements. Hiring a competent and experienced mediator or attorney to serve the mediator role will help ensure these legal requirements are met.

In California, mediation is a widely recognized and accepted method for resolving difficult divorce and family law disputes. When couples reach an agreement through mediation, that agreement can be legally binding and enforceable as long as it meets the criteria. 

Some of these criteria are listed below:


  • Voluntary agreement: Both parties must voluntarily enter into the mediation process and reach an agreement without undue influence or coercion.


  • Full disclosure: Both parties must provide complete and accurate information about their situations and any relevant matters. This ensures that both parties are making informed decisions.


  • Written agreement: The agreement reached through mediation should be clearly documented in writing. The written agreement should outline the terms of property division, spousal support, child custody, child support, and any other relevant issues.


  • Notarization: While notarization is not always required, having the agreement notarized can add an extra layer of legitimacy and ease enforcement.


  • Approval by Court: To make the agreement legally binding, it needs to be reviewed and approved by a judge. The court’s approval ensures that the agreement is fair and complies with California law.

It’s important to note that even if you reach an agreement through mediation, it’s advisable to work with an attorney specializing in family law to review the agreement before it is finalized or have a specialized attorney serve as the mediator. 

An attorney can provide you with legal advice, ensure that your rights are protected, and help you understand the long-term implications of the agreement.

In cases where one party fails to comply with the terms of a legitimate mediation agreement, the other party can seek enforcement. This can involve filing a motion to enforce the agreement, which may lead to court-ordered remedies if one party is not fulfilling the obligations outlined in the agreement.

Overall, divorce mediation agreements can be a valuable and effective way to resolve disputes in a less adversarial manner while still creating legally enforceable agreements that protect the rights and interests of both parties.


Choosing the right approach for your family law divorce case

Assess your relationship to help you determine the right approach. Mediation may be a suitable choice if you and your spouse can communicate civilly and are willing to work together. However, if there’s a high level of conflict or a history of abuse, litigation might be necessary to ensure a fair resolution. Each party must be able to sit down and negotiate.

Additionally, if the relationship between spouses in a divorce is adversarial, the complexity of the issues involved in your divorce is another factor. Suppose your case involves intricate financial matters, child custody arrangements, or extensive property division. In that case, litigation might be necessary to navigate these complexities effectively if each spouse cannot sit down and negotiate amicably. 

Your children’s welfare may benefit from mediation. If you have children, their well-being should be a top priority. Mediation can help minimize the emotional impact on children by promoting cooperation between parents. Sometimes the party versus party nature of litigation in the courts leads to protracted and more conflict-prone battles to win the judge over to a given side.

Time and cost considerations can be another determining factor. Divorce mediation tends to be quicker and more cost-effective, making it an appealing option for couples who want to avoid lengthy court battles.

And once again, if privacy is a concern, divorce mediation’s confidentiality might be preferable, as litigation proceedings are part of the public record.

Ultimately, the approach you choose should align with your values and preferences. Divorce mediation offers more autonomy and collaboration, while litigation provides thoroughness and legal advocacy through court orders that may be beneficial in the case of a hostile relationship. Based on your needs, you can decide to prepare for divorce mediation or divorce litigation.


Conclusion – Choosing the right divorce approach for your family

Deciding between divorce mediation and divorce litigation in California hinges on numerous factors, including your relationship dynamics, the complexity of issues, and overall priorities. Both options have their merits, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer. 

It’s advisable to consult with an experienced family law attorney, such as an expert in divorce mediation based in Los Angeles who can help you navigate the nuances of your case and guide you toward the approach that best suits your unique circumstances. 

Whether you choose the cooperative route of mediation or the court-process framework of litigation, making an informed decision is essential to achieving a resolution that serves the best interests of everyone involved.


About Family and Divorce Lawyer, Leon F. Bennett, Esq.

The Law Offices of Leon F. Bennett provide efficient and effective Family Law services throughout Southern California for over 35 years that satisfy you and your family’s goals. Leon F. Bennett, Esq. is an expert family law attorney in Woodland Hills, Ca., who will get the desired results for you and your family. Contact us today to request a consultation.