Divorce Mediation vs Divorce Litigation

Understand the Difference Before You Begin!

Divorce mediation saves a lot of money. If you are contemplating divorce – or even if you are in the middle of a divorce – mediation is certainly worth looking into. Attorney fees often get out of control very fast. Divorce Attorneys in Northern Virginia charge $375-$550 per hour and require the payment of retainer fees of $2,500 - $10,000. Total litigation fees run $20,000 - $130,000, per spouse, for contested divorce cases. At Graine Mediation, most cases are settled for $5,900 - $7,200. No retainer fees are required.


Divorce Mediation

Divorce Litigation

Cost (See more about costs in our Fees & Costs Comparison Chart)

Total Average Cost: $5,900 - $7,200 from initial call to signed Mediated Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA).

Our Mediation Session Fees are $450 per hour. Most cases are resolved in two or three 3-hour sessions.

The Mediated Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) is charged at a flat fee of approximately $3,200 - $4,500 depending on the complexity of your case. This fee also includes 1 hour of editing and the signing process.

Call a Mediator!

  • Free 15-minute Q&A Phone Conferences 571-220-1998. You can also schedule online
  • Need more help? For an in depth Pre-Mediation Conference, schedule online

There are usually no or very low fees for work done outside of the mediation session (e.g., no document review fees, no legal research fees).

For sessions beginning after 4:30pm and on weekends, there is a 20% surcharge.

Attorney fees for contested divorces are between $20,000 - $130,000.

Attorneys charge between $375-$550 per hour and every minute is billable time. When you litigate, both spouses have divorce lawyers, which doubles the cost.


You won't feel hurried, but your settlement will resolve quickly. Each divorce mediation session lasts about 3 hours. Most cases are settled in 2-3 sessions. Issues are resolved quickly because mediation encourages reasonableness and the settlement process is very efficient.

Litigation is an extremely time-consuming process. 1-3 years is common. Litigation is not only a complex and strategical system, but attorneys are always wary of malpractice. This will cost you money in the time it takes your lawyer to cover his or her tracks. Your lawyer's problems become your wallet's problems.

Decision Makers

You and your spouse make all of the decisions about your finances and children, both present and future. Divorce mediation recognizes that only you really understand the intimate details of your family's financial needs and what is best for your children. Only you should be the chief decision-maker in the settlement process.

Ultimately, if your case is not settled by the strategies and tactics of your attorneys, a judge makes decisions about your and your family's finances and the best interests of your children. Your attorney, not you, presents your case to the judge. You are not the ultimate decision-maker.

Children’s Wellbeing

Research shows that it is exposure to parental conflict – and not divorce in and of itself – that causes harm to children. Divorce mediation helps protect the parents’ ability to communicate with each other and tamps down the emotional aspects of divorce. This encourages cooperative parenting and alleviates anxiety for your children.

Though attorneys and judges always adhere to the “best interests of the child” standard, two warring parents are always going to make children feel anxious.


The divorce mediation setting is relaxed and informal compared to a courtroom. Formal rules of evidence (hearsay, relevance, etc.) and procedure do not apply in divorce mediation. This saves time, money and helps parties better focus on settling their key issues and disputes.

Formal rules of evidence and complex procedural rules apply. These rules are designed to protect parties' rights, but often make it difficult for parties to get their story out and for focused settlement negotiations to proceed. Courtrooms, themselves, can be intimidating to people and are often not the best place to resolve family problems.

Emotional Wear & Tear

Divorce mediation, with its focus on each of your true needs, and those of your children, offers a more human and easy to understand process. Divorce mediation is intended to temper – and not to exacerbate – negative emotions during this very traumatic life-event.

The adversarial nature of litigation itself often exaggerates negative feelings that divorcing couples have toward each other. Divorce lawyers know that couples who have been through litigation often have an even more negative relationship after the divorce than they did during their marriage.

Certainty of Outcome

You decide the outcome. We help you stay on track and ensure that you have all the information necessary for a fair, informed, and mutually agreeable settlement.

No one can predict the outcome once you are in court. Judges have great latitude when making decisions in a divorce case. Even seasoned divorce attorneys cannot predict, with certainty, how a court will rule.


A written, mediated Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA), signed by all parties, is enforceable in law, as is any other written contract.

There is no difference, in terms of enforceability, in a MSA drafted by a mediator or by a divorce lawyer.


Divorce mediation emphasizes the development of communication skills. This is essential for parents who will be raising children together post divorce.

There is no emphasis on developing or using communication skills in litigation. Instead, litigation is considered an adversarial process. Further, judges do not have the time, obligation or orientation to help couples develop creative solutions to their problems.


Divorce mediation is private. All communications made in connection with the matters being mediated are confidential. The same is true for all documents and materials created for the divorce mediation process. Certain exceptions apply and will be thoroughly explained in your first divorce mediation session. Your final written MSA, will become part of the court record.

Courtrooms are public places. Though some information is protected by attorney-client privilege, all of your family’s private business and financial information which is used by either side as evidence in court is unprotected by that privilege.

Discovery (An attorney-directed and court-supervised method of collecting documents and other evidence.)

There is no formal discovery in mediation. This saves thousands of dollars in fees and administrative costs.

Parties are required to bring all relevant and necessary information to the mediation so that both spouses can make informed settlement decisions. Which actual documents will be necessary is determined on a case-by-basis.

At Graine Mediation, we do not handle cases where either party suspects that the other is hiding assets or income. In those situations, we will refer you to an attorney to conduct formal discovery (a court-supervised process of gathering information).

Formal discovery is the norm. Conducting discovery is time consuming and outrageously expensive.

Efficient discovery requires the cooperation of both attorneys and both clients. In contested litigation, however, this is not how the game is played. That means that everyone must go to court to fight about the discovery requests. However, court houses are so backed-up with motions, based on convoluted legal strategy and maneuvering, that it often takes months to see a judge.

Divorce mediation, with its focus on you and your children's true needs, offers a more streamlined, compassionate and less expensive process for resolving your settlement disputes.