Litigation vs Mediation: Choosing the Right Path for Resolving Family Disputes

Aug 6, 2023 | News

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When families face conflicts that require legal intervention, they often grapple with a crucial decision – whether to pursue traditional litigation or opt for a more peaceful and family-centred approach through family mediation. In this article, we’ll explore the key differences between litigation and family mediation, shedding light on why family mediation is a wiser choice for resolving family disputes.

What is the difference between mediation and litigation?

Mediation and litigation are two distinct paths to resolving family disputes. Litigation is a formal legal process where disputes are brought to court, and a judge makes binding decisions. In contrast, family mediation is a voluntary and collaborative process where a neutral third party, known as a mediator, helps family members reach mutually agreeable solutions.

Mediation vs Litigation Process

Mediation Process

Family mediation begins with both participants, along with their chosen mediator, coming together for discussions. The mediator facilitates open communication, identifies common goals, and guides the family toward reaching their own agreements. Mediation is often quicker, more cost-effective, and keeps the family’s personal matters private.

Litigation Process

Litigation involves filing a formal case in court, which leads to a legal battle. Lawyers represent each party, and a judge presides over the proceedings, rendering decisions. This process is generally more time-consuming, expensive, and adversarial. It can also expose sensitive family matters to public scrutiny.

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Why is it better to settle out of court?

1. Cost of Mediation vs. Litigation

Family mediation is notably more cost-effective compared to litigation. With no extensive legal fees or court costs, mediation keeps the financial burden minimal, making it an ideal choice for families looking to save money while resolving disputes.

2. Emphasis on Cooperation

Mediation encourages cooperation and compromise rather than adversarial conflict. This is particularly valuable in family disputes where preserving relationships is crucial. Litigation can strain family ties further and create long-lasting resentment.

3. Speedy Resolution

Family mediation often yields quicker results. The process is structured to move at a pace suitable for the involved participants, ensuring a timely resolution. Litigation, on the other hand, can drag on for months or even years.

4. Privacy and Confidentiality

Family mediation is conducted in a private and confidential setting. The details of the mediation remain within the family, offering a safe space for discussing personal matters. In litigation, court records are typically public, leading to potential embarrassment or discomfort for the family.

Dispute Resolutions

In addition to mediation, there are other dispute resolution methods, such as arbitration. In arbitration, a neutral third-party acts as a decision-maker, rendering a binding decision based on the evidence presented, much like a judge in litigation.


Family conflicts can be emotionally charged and complex, making the choice of dispute resolution method critically important. While litigation remains a necessary option for some cases, family mediation offers a less adversarial, more efficient, and cost-effective approach to resolving family disputes. It prioritises family well-being, cooperation, and privacy, ensuring that family relationships remain intact.

By selecting family mediation over litigation, you not only save time and money but also pave the way for a more harmonious family life during and after the resolution of disputes. When it comes to family matters, it’s often better to choose the path of understanding, collaboration, and mutual agreement – family mediation provides precisely that.

Read more about mediators vs lawyers in our blog.

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Case Study: A Family Mediation Success Story


The Dickinson family, which includes parents John and Mary, and their two teenage children, Emily and Daniel, were in the midst of a challenging family dispute. The primary issue revolved around the impending divorce of John and Mary, as well as their concerns about child arrangements and financial matters. The family realised that they needed a constructive and supportive way to navigate this emotional and complex transition.

Key Issues

  1. Divorce Proceedings: John and Mary were seeking an amicable divorce but had concerns about the legal and emotional aspects of the process.
  2. Child Arrangements: They needed a solution that would prioritise the well-being and interests of their children, Emily and Daniel, while ensuring both parents remained actively involved in their lives.
  3. Financial Matters: The family had financial assets and properties to divide and wanted a fair settlement that met the needs of all participants.


The Smith family aimed to resolve their family dispute using family mediation to:

  1. Ensure a smoother, more amicable divorce process.
  2. Minimise the emotional toll on their children and maintain a healthy co-parenting relationship.
  3. Create a financial agreement that was fair to both parents.
  4. Avoid lengthy and adversarial court proceedings.

 This case study illustrates the potential benefits of family mediation as a more compassionate, efficient, and family-centred approach to resolving disputes during challenging life transitions.

Meet one of our family mediators – Stuart Hanson

Meet Stuart Hanson, a Family Mediator accredited by the Family Mediation Council (FMC) and a member of Resolution. With a rich background in family law, Stuart firmly believes that mediation is the superior choice for most families facing disputes.

Having served as a family magistrate in Leeds and being recognised with a National Mediation Award, Stuart’s preference for mediation is deeply rooted in his experience. He has seen first-hand the positive impact of mediation in resolving family conflicts. His conviction is unwavering – mediation is often a better, more empathetic, and family-focused solution compared to the adversarial court process.

With Stuart’s endorsement, it’s clear that for most families, mediation can offer a more efficient, cost-effective, and amicable path to resolving disputes, preserving relationships, and safeguarding the well-being of all involved. His commitment to advancing the field of family mediation makes him an advocate for peaceful conflict resolution.

Mediation can be an enormous and inexpensive process. Talk to one of our friendly and experienced team to find out how we can help you.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is the fundamental difference between litigation and mediation in resolving family disputes?

    Litigation involves resolving family disputes through the court system, where a judge makes decisions on issues like child custody, alimony, and property division. Mediation, on the other hand, is a collaborative and confidential process where a neutral mediator helps the parties negotiate and reach a mutually agreeable solution outside of court. The main difference lies in the approach: litigation is adversarial and formal, while mediation is cooperative.

    Which approach, litigation or mediation, is more time-efficient in resolving family disputes?

    Mediation is generally more time-efficient than litigation. Family court cases can be lengthy due to crowded court dockets, legal procedures, and court schedules. In contrast, mediation allows families to work at their own pace and schedule sessions when convenient for all parties involved. Additionally, mediation can often resolve issues in a few sessions, whereas litigation can drag on for months or even years.

    What are the financial implications of choosing litigation over mediation for resolving family disputes?

    Litigation can be significantly more expensive than mediation. Court fees, solicitor's fees, and other legal expenses can quickly accumulate during a litigated family dispute. Mediation tends to be more cost-effective because it typically requires fewer professional hours. Moreover, in mediation, the parties have control over the process, which can lead to more creative and tailored solutions, potentially saving significant costs in the long run.

    How do I decide whether litigation or mediation is the right path for my family dispute?

    The choice between litigation and mediation depends on the complexity of the issues involved, the level of conflict between the parties, and the willingness of both parties to collaborate. If the dispute involves highly contested issues and communication between parties is difficult, litigation might be necessary. However, if both parties are willing to work together and are open to compromise, mediation is often a more constructive and less stressful option. It's essential to consult with legal professionals who specialize in family law to evaluate your specific situation and guide you toward the most suitable resolution method.

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