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What is The Difference: Mediation vs. a Divorce Lawyer

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • Going through a divorce is overwhelming, and it can be hard to keep emotions at bay when going through the process when needing to make important decisions that will affect your future.
  • Divorce mediation is when a third party helps both spouses reach confidential agreements about divorce issues and settlements.
  • Court-based processes mean your divorce will appear before a judge and may become public record.
  • An attorney can represent you in mediation to help advocate for your best interests while avoiding litigation.

Our mission at Cordell & Cordell is to empower men in their decisions. So today we are here to talk about an important topic: divorce mediation, along with the pros and cons of opting for a meditator vs. a lawyer.

It’s important to note that many divorce cases require both mediation and legal representation. Both are necessary to achieve ideal outcomes, especially in cases where parties cannot agree on issues such as child support, custody, alimony, and property division.

At Cordell & Cordell, we understand the divorce process is overwhelming and complex for men, so let’s dive in and dissect your options together.

What is Divorce Mediation?

Divorce mediation is a confidential process involving third-party intervention. Mediators don’t represent either spouse but act as an impartial “go-between” as the couple works through the settlement process.

  • The mediator’s role is to help both parties come to a mutually agreeable resolution about divorce issues.
  • Unlike litigation, mediation doesn’t involve court appearances and a judge ruling on decisions.
  • While you aren’t going to court, it’s a good idea to involve your attorney in this process.
  • Lawyers are important because they can explain not only the reasonableness of what the other side wants but also what the mediator is saying.
  • Sometimes, this involves the mediator giving candid assessments of certain arguments made by one party or the other.
  • An attorney can help sort through that assessment while prioritizing your best interests over a settlement.

Pros of Mediation During Divorce

If mediation is a potential course of action in your divorce process, the following are advantages to consider.

  1. Cost-effectiveness: Mediation tends to be more affordable than traditional litigation, saving you substantial legal fees. Mediation typically costs 30-40% less compared to hiring a divorce lawyer.
  2. Control and flexibility: You have more control over the process and can negotiate terms that meet your unique circumstances. Mediation allows couples to maintain control over decisions regarding property division, child custody, and support agreements.
  3. Confidentiality: Mediation proceedings are confidential, offering privacy and discretion.

Cons of Divorce Mediation

Mediation isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of solution, the following are factors to think about before taking this route.

  1. Lack of legal representation: Without legal advice, you may overlook important legal rights and entitlements.
  2. Unequal bargaining power: Power imbalances between spouses can affect negotiation outcomes.
  3. Complex legal issues: Mediation may not be suitable for cases involving complex legal or financial matters.

Working With a Divorce Attorney

A person in a suit gestures while speaking, another takes notes, and a gavel rests on a block, suggesting a legal setting.

A divorce attorney is a legal representative who works to protect your interest. While mediators must remain unbiased, a divorce attorney will advocate and negotiate for you. A divorce lawyer can only represent one party throughout the process.

Since many divorce issues are delicate and must be handled with care, your attorney should have:

  • Extensive family law experience
  • Courtroom experience
  • Knowledge about local courts and state laws
  • Listen to your side of the story

Pros of Hiring a Divorce Lawyer

Hiring a divorce attorney to represent you offers many benefits and you’ll want to carefully think about the following three advantages as you move forward.

  1. Legal experience: You benefit from the knowledge and experience of a seasoned divorce lawyer who can navigate complex legal proceedings with an objective perspective.
  2. Advocacy and protection: Your lawyer will advocate for your best interests and protect your rights.
  3. Emotional support: A divorce lawyer’s protection can provide valuable peace of mind during this challenging time.

Cons of Hiring a Divorce Lawyer

As with anything in life, along with benefits, there might be some drawbacks.

  1. Higher costs: Legal representation can be expensive, especially if the divorce process becomes contentious. However, your lawyer may be able to negotiate and mitigate some of the combative elements of your divorce.
  2. Loss of control: Litigation puts important decisions in the hands of a judge, potentially leading to outcomes that don’t fully align with your preferences.
  3. Lengthy process: Court proceedings can be lengthy and time-consuming, prolonging the emotional strain of the divorce.

Must-Listen Podcasts on Divorce Mediation

Differentiating The Process: Divorce Litigation vs. Divorce Mediation

Divorce Litigation

The court-based process of traditional divorce litigation will involve these steps:

  1. File a complaint: One spouse will file in accordance with state laws. This officially begins the divorce process.
  2. Response and counterclaims: The other spouse is allowed to respond to the complaint and file any counterclaims if they do not agree with one or more proposals in the initial complaint.
  3. Discovery: The discovery process is when both parties gather information about the case, such as requesting documents, obtaining financial records, and deposing witnesses.
  4. Appear in court: The divorce litigation process typically involves several court appearances where each attorney presents arguments and evidence. A judge will decide on important issues, including child custody, child/spousal support, and property division.
  5. Trial: When two spouses can’t agree through negotiations or mediation (courts will sometimes order the latter), the next step is to attend a trial where a judge will preside and make final decisions on unresolved issues.
  6. Final judgment: A final judgment of divorce outlines the terms of the divorce, making all arrangements and decisions legally binding.
  7. Appeals: Either spouse has an opportunity to appeal a judge’s decision, but this will stretch out the divorce finalization timeline.

Your attorney will work with you every step of the way, advocating for what’s best for you (and your children).

Divorce Mediation

The steps involved in successful mediation include the divorcing couple agreeing to an uncontested divorce, along with collaborative and alternative dispute resolution, and will include the following:

  • Voluntary agreement: Two spouses agree to work with a neutral third party to negotiate issues.
  • Mediation sessions: The mediator facilitates open, communicative, and respectful discussions with the intent to come to mutual decision-making about child custody, property division, support, and other issues.
  • Drafts agreements: Once spouses reach agreements, the mediator aids in drafting a divorce settlement agreement that details the divorce terms and is given to parties and their lawyers to review.

Once both parties reach mutual agreements and finalize their decisions, the documentation is submitted to the court. Lastly, the court reviews for approval and issues a final divorce decree.

Three professionals sit at a table; two are discussing while one writes notes, in a modern office setting.

Key Differences Between the Two

Whether you should pursue the divorce mediation process or the court-based process will depend upon your situation and the relationship between you and your spouse. These are key differences between the two processes you should consider:

Cost of divorce

Generally, a litigation divorce costs tens of thousands of dollars, and if it goes to trial, it can reach six figures. Mediation is much less expensive.


Mediation is confidential, whereas divorces become public record.


Mediation gives you the most control over the outcome of a divorce case. If parties cannot agree, the case goes in front of a judge who will never know as much about your family and finances as you and you’ll have to hope they understand enough to enter a fair and just result.


Divorce litigation can take up to 18 months to 2-3 years to complete, whereas mediation can be much faster, sometimes under six months, if not sooner.


Litigated divorces are risky because you don’t know which way a judge will rule, and the result may be unsatisfactory. In private mediation, both spouses have a say and can work through issues together with their attorneys, and they have more confidence over the outcome.

Divorce Mediation Lawyers (A Two-in-One Solution)

Your lawyer is essentially there to speak on your behalf, and anytime there is child support, alimony, or assets involved, you’ll want to have fair legal stipulations in place.

Why Work With Cordell & Cordell

Cordell & Cordell has been representing the best interests of fathers and husbands since 1990. Our attorneys have seen firsthand the struggles men often face in family court as the family court system can be biased against them.

Our attorneys will act as your advisor and advocate in protecting your financial and family interests. If necessary, we’ll fight aggressively with your wife’s attorney in court.


“The whole team from Cordell and Cordell did an amazing job on my case! They all went above and beyond, and I will be forever grateful! ” — Damian A.

” My attorney […] was top-notch. She was able to quickly become in tune with my specific custody situation and needs, gave me excellent advice throughout the entire process and worked diligently to give me a very favorable outcome to my case. As a man, I was nervous about fighting for custody of my young child, but Maggie ensured that I did have a strong case, put me at ease about many details of the process, and got me the results that I wanted.” — Jacob P.

Navigate Your Divorce with Confidence

Facing divorce proceedings is overwhelming, and it can be difficult to make decisions now that will impact your future. Whether you choose the mediation process with your wife or find you must take the litigation approach if she’s not willing to work with you, it’s a good idea to have an experienced attorney by your side.

The compassionate family law attorneys at Cordell & Cordell are very experienced in divorce law for men. We’re here for you to represent your case, keeping your best interests our goal. To schedule a consultation with us, call 866-DADS-LAW (323-7529) or fill out our online contact form, and a member of our legal team will be in touch.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is Divorce Mediation Not Recommended?

Mediation may not be recommended in certain circumstances, such as:

  • Your wife isn’t willing to collaboratively discuss issues.
  • Your wife is incapacitated.
  • There are domestic violence issues.
  • Your wife is adversarial and likely seeking a contested divorce.
  • You suspect your wife isn’t being transparent or acting in good faith.
Can I Go to Mediation Without an Attorney?

Lawyers are not required at meditation. However, if remaining legally protected and well-documented are at the top of your list for peace of mind, hire a lawyer to represent you.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Divorce Mediation?

It’s a good idea to have an attorney present during any legal process as they know how to look out for your best interests.

What Shouldn’t You Say During a Divorce Mediation?

It is always best to let your lawyer speak for you during the mediation. With good preparation by your lawyer, ideally, a client should only answer questions directed to them by the mediator.

Joseph E. Cordell, founder of Cordell & Cordell family law offices

Edited By Joseph E. Cordell

Co-Founder, Principal Partner
Joseph E. Cordell, founder of Cordell & Cordell family law offices

Joseph E. Cordell is the Principal Partner at Cordell and Cordell, P.C., which he founded in 1990 with his wife, Yvonne. Over the past 25 years, the firm has grown to include more than 100 offices in 30 states, as well as internationally in the United Kingdom. Mr. Cordell is licensed to practice in the states of Illinois and Missouri and received his LL.M. from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Joseph E. Cordell was named one of the Top 10 Best Family Law Attorneys for Client Satisfaction in Missouri.

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Men hire Cordell & Cordell because the firm’s entire focus is on aggressively championing the rights of men and fathers through divorce. Our attorneys understand how the deck is often stacked against guys in family law and are committed to leveling the playing field by providing the legal guidance and resources needed to give them a fair chance at success.