Choosing between mediation, arbitration or litigation

Couples in California who are facing divorce may have the opportunity to choose between mediation, arbitration and litigation. Of the three, mediation may provide the quickest resolution and may be the solution that leaves a relationship in the best shape afterwards.

The goal of mediation is to get two parties to agree on something. Mediation is private, and it can be a helpful way for two parties to resolve an emotional situation to the satisfaction of both. Litigation is in many ways the opposite of mediation. It is public, and the aim is not for both parties to be happy with a solution but for one person to win and the other to lose.

Arbitration combines some of the elements of mediation with litigation. It is more formal than mediation and is conducted more like a trial, but it is private, and unlike a judge in a court case, an arbitrator can be chosen by the parties involved. An arbitrator can also make a legally binding agreement.

Mediation may be particularly helpful for parents who are divorcing. While discussions over child custody can be one of the more emotional parts of a divorce, the end result is usually that the two parents must continue communicating and attempting to work together as parents for several years. Mediation tends to pave the way for a stronger co-parenting relationship. Other aspects of a divorce can also be decided through mediation such as property division. Family law attorneys will often point out that another advantage of mediation during a divorce is that it may allow participants to reach creative solutions that may not have been possible in litigation.

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