The Worst Day in Family Law Mediation is Better Than the Best Day in Litigation

I recently saw an article with a similar title as the one above and decided to put in my two cents on the topic.  As a long time Arizona attorney and mediator, I have gotten to see the range of experiences in both litigation and mediation.  Most mediations go swimmingly well – the parties reach a full agreement in a matter of a few hours.  The parties are able to end their marriage or former relationship respectfully.  Where there are children involved, and an ongoing relationship is necessary, the parties are able to build a new relationship in mediation – for the benefit of their children.

Some mediations are more difficult.  For example, one or both parties could have hurt feelings related to the demise of a relationship.  Emotions may get in the way of a reasonable resolution.  Or, the parties could have dramatically different ideas about how assets should be divided or whether spousal maintenance should be paid.  Those mediations could take a number of sessions and much determination to resolve.  I am here to say:  the effort is worth it.

One might think that the best thing to do when parties hit an impasse in negotiations is to litigate.  However, litigation is generally risky, stressful expensive and ugly.

Let’s focus on “risky.”  There are many of shades of gray in family law.  There is no attorney out there who will guarantee a client a particular result.  That means that, often, either party with conflicting arguments may prevail.  If a party found an attorney willing to argue a position, there is a good chance that party’s argument has some merit.  Therefore, going to court means that a party is spending substantial time and money and may not get what he/she wants. It is certainly very unusual to get everything one wants through litigation.


Even if someone beats the odds and prevails in Court on all issues, that may not be as positive an outcome as one may think.  The loser in this hypothetical situation is not going to be happy.  He or she may do whatever he or she can to make the other person’s life difficult.  And, both parties would have still likely spent many months and tens of thousands of dollars to get that result through litigation.  As an aside, most people do not want to “crush” their former loved-one or the parent to their children.  That benefits no one.


George Herbert, a poet and orator, said it best:  “A lean compromise is better than a fat lawsuit.”   Even when mediation is challenging, there is a reward to sticking to it.  The reward is much bigger and better than saving time and money.

Alona M. Gottfried is a family law mediator and attorney in Arizona.  If you have questions about mediation, she can be reached at: 480-998-1500 or  This is a general interest article only and is not intended to be legal advice.  See a legal professional before making legal decisions.

Simmons & Gottfried, PLLC
8160 E. Butherus Dr., Scottsdale Arizona 85260


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