In the emotional and frustrating events involved in a divorce, it can be difficult to keep your wits about you. Trying to agree on arrangements with your spouse can be difficult, if not impossible. In other cases, however, decisions can be agreed upon with relative ease, and the divorce can move smoothly through the motions.

When you know where you fall on the spectrum of disputes in a divorce, you’ll know better if you should pursue divorce through litigationarbitration, or divorce mediation. Read on to understand the differences and where you should focus.

Why You Need to Understand the Differences

TV and movie dramas show us that divorce can only be resolved with the swift and angry gavel of a stern judge while both parties fight like children in a courtroom. While this drama does occasionally turn into reality, it’s important to know that there are more options than a courtroom. You can save time and money when you and your spouse both approach divorce with the right attitude and dispute resolution mind set.


If both parties are willing to compromise, and if the relationship is relatively amicable, mediation is a less expensive and less painful process. Mediation is informal and confidential. A neutral third party, who is trained to help people discuss their differences, helps both parties work out their own solutions. The mediator does not make any decisions, but rather facilitates a way for both parties to come to agreements together.

family law attorney is not required for either party, but is always a valuable asset to the mediation process to make sure your needs are foreseen and will be met. In addition, divorce still requires paperwork, even with mediation, and a divorce lawyer can take care of this for you. Since there is less time involved, lawyer fees are much less than they are in divorce litigation.


Like mediation, arbitration is also private. However, in arbitration, both parties agree to hire an arbitrator to hear and decide on their case. Arbitration is less formal than litigation and is often held in an attorney’s conference room. This environment allows both parties to speak up when they need to, and they can even agree on the rules to be followed. In arbitration, however, the decision made by the arbitrator cannot be appealed.

This contrasts with litigation in which either party can appeal a decision they are unhappy with. However, this tends to cause more conflict in litigation, as both parties continue to try to change the decisions. In arbitration, conflict is lessened as both parties understand a decision has been made.

In arbitration, a case will be heard at a specific time. There is no waiting around for your turn, and the schedule will even work around each party’s schedule. This is less expensive than litigation, which often requires lengthy periods of waiting at court.


In litigation, a judge and/or jury will hear your case in a courtroom and make final decisions. Divorces that require litigation are typically high-conflict divorces, meaning issues like spousal supportchild custody, child support, and property division can’t be agreed upon.

In litigation, one conflict can often lead to another conflict, and the process can sometimes drag on. The court may hear the case, but then call for a recess to gather more information, and this causes the process to take even longer. Oftentimes, a couple will have tried arbitration and mediation before ending up in litigation. Litigation is the most expensive form of dispute resolution for divorcing couples and should be a last resort.

Find the Right Attorney

No matter which form of conflict resolution you choose, make sure you have a good experienced family law attorney on your side.

About the Author
Ben Carrasco is a highly skilled family law attorney based in Austin, Texas, known for his extensive expertise in family law and business litigation. While his primary focus is family law, Ben brings a wealth of experience in litigating diverse business disputes, ranging from breach of contract and collections to business torts, fraud, and real estate matters. In his family law practice, Ben navigates all aspects of the field, including divorce, child custody, support, property division, and more, offering clients expert guidance throughout the litigation process. His legal journey began in complex commercial litigation, initially with a global law firm and later with a prominent Austin-based firm. However, driven by a desire to make a direct impact on people's lives and embrace the human element of the law, Ben transitioned to family law, a decision that has proven to be deeply rewarding. A proud Austin native with roots in California, Ben completed his undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, before earning his law degree at Stanford Law School, where he excelled in legal writing and served as an associate editor of the Stanford Law and Policy Review.