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Civil Litigation vs. Mediation: What’s the Difference?

a couple arguiing?Conflict can arise between or among friends, family members, co-workers, members of an HOA association, or business owners. These disputes are most commonly resolved through one of two methods: mediation or civil litigation. While these are both effective methods of dispute resolution, the similarities essentially end there. Civil litigation and mediation differ in terms of time, cost, communication methods, and the decision-making process.

Read on to learn more about the differences between civil litigation and mediation.


The civil litigation process can often last for anywhere from a couple of months to a few years. It takes time for the attorneys to gather the right information to make their cases. The process is very thorough, involving research, discovery, preparation, the pretrial, and the trial itself. A typical mediation can lead to the resolution of a dispute in as little as a few hours, in some cases. As long as the involved parties are willing to listen to each perspective and work toward a compromise, mediation can be a very efficient process.


The biggest costs in civil litigation are the costs of discovery and the process of preparing for the case. Your attorney has to take the time to make your case as strong as possible since your end goal is to win. Because there is a lot more at stake with civil litigation and because the process takes much longer, the overall price tag does tend to be higher than most mediation cases.


During the civil litigation process, each party consults with their respective attorney, who then speaks on their behalf. The communication process is much more limited and more formal than mediation. With mediation, you get the chance to talk with the mediator by yourself and to speak with everyone involved. Each involved party voices his/her stance on an issue, in hopes of working toward a compromise.

The Final Decision

With civil litigation, a judge or a jury makes the final decision, and all involved parties have to abide by that decision. Often, the decision only benefits one party, or benefits one party more than the rest. This is ideal for someone who feels very strongly about their stance on an issue and is unwilling to compromise.

The goal of mediation, on the other hand, is to find a win-win solution, where the final decision is seen as fair. While the mediator is there to promote open communication and productive discussions, he/she does not make or enforce the final decision. Rather, all involved in the mediation process try to reach a resolution that everyone can agree on. Additionally, the decision reached through mediation is not binding, as it is with civil litigation.

Both mediation and civil litigation have their advantages, and there is an appropriate time for each one. Our attorneys are experienced with both unique approach to dispute resolution, and we will assist you in choosing the right one for your situation. Learn more about both methods of dispute resolution below.

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