It’s no secret that divorce trials can be messy. From drawn-out showdowns in Hollywood divorces to seething, bitter suburban battles over custody, property divisions, and even who keeps the dog, contentions and emotions can run high when a couple takes action to end their marriage.

The duration of the trial may even directly affect how acrimonious the divorce is. The longer things take, the more patience is lost—plus, there’s more time to ruminate over all of the differences between you, some of which might not have even presented themselves until your divorce went to court.

These and other stereotypes of divorce might be the reason many couples choose mediation instead. Rather than duking out the terms of the divorce in a courtroom, mediation entails sitting down with neutral, third-party representatives and coming to an agreement on your own about how your property and custody will be divided between you. The decision is presented to a judge, who makes it official.

Questions to ask yourself

Mediation is a great way to keep your divorce short, low-key and civil. However, it’s not necessarily the best option for everyone. Here’s what to keep in mind when making that decision:

  • Are my spouse and I capable of negotiating? Mediation requires that both people consider the interests of each other in addition to their own interests. If you or your spouse are not in a position to make fair negotiations without turning into a war, then mediation may not be right for you. Similarly, spouses who are victims of domestic violence and other traumas likely require the help of the court.
  • Do you understand, or are you willing to learn, the more complicated aspects and legal implications of divorce? For example, if you believe you or your spouse would have difficulty making good decisions because of a lack of comprehension of the larger picture, it might be better to proceed with the help of a traditional courtroom divorce.
  • Can you take ownership of your wants and needs now and in the future? If you feel like you’re on shaky ground with the newfound independence and self-reliance that follows a divorce, or stuck in debilitating grief, you might have trouble looking toward the future and adequately understanding what would best suit everyone’s needs.

A divorce trial is designed to provide a solid, neutral framework in the event that two people dispute over the details of a divorce. If, however, both people can come to an agreement on their own, it can save time, money, and stress. A divorce attorney with mediation experience can help you determine whether mediation is right for you.