Study Compares the Costs of Divorce: Mediation vs. Collaborative vs. Litigation

A recent article on the MSNBC website entitled More Couples Seeking Kinder, Gentler Divorces reports on an interesting study which compares the costs involved in mediated, collaborative and litigated divorces. The study was prepared by the Boston Law Collaborative, a law firm in Boston where the staff includes a psychologist and a financial planner. It offers divorcing couples a range of options, including mediation and collaborative divorce as well as conventional litigation.

The firm analyzed 199 of its recent divorce cases, and found that mediation, collaborative divorce and litigation all produced high rates of successful settlement. Mediation was by far the least expensive option, with a median cost of $6,600, compared to $19,723 for a collaborative divorce, $26,830 for settlements negotiated by rival lawyers, and $77,746 for full-scale litigation.

In mediation, divorcing couples entrust a resolution to a single neutral mediator.  Collaborative divorce involves the use of attorneys for each party, often joined by other expert consultants. But the lawyers, instead of sparring, pledge from the outset to avoid court and work together in crafting an outcome that is fair to all.

Mediation might be a good option for some couples, but there are reasons to try the collaborative approach. At mediation, each partner has to come to the table and negotiate for himself or herself at a really emotional time, and sometimes there’s an imbalance in knowledge or power. If you don’t have your attorney at the negotiation table to protect you, the mediation can be pretty tricky.

The growth of collaborative law is part of a broader trend away from courtroom divorce proceedings. Even members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, who serve a relatively affluent clientele who are divorcing, reported in a recent survey that increasing numbers of cases are being settled before trial.