Expense.Mediation is comparatively much less expensive. The single cost usually is the mediator's fee for a small number of hours, shared by the participants. Litigation – the full expenses of which include substantially more hours of lawyer fees (separate fees for each party), a myriad of court costs, witness fees, etc. – often will cost many times the expense of mediating the same dispute.
Delay. Mediation usually can begin within a week of initial contact, and can help the participants reach agreement by working together in a short timeframe. Litigation typically takes a year or more to reach resolution.
Viewpoint. Mediation looks forward and helps the participants recognize and satisfy their needs in resolving their dispute. Litigation looks backward and tries to place blame; it has little concern for underlying needs or for the participants' future.
Relationships. In the case of family disputes (e.g., divorce, separation, elder care, parenting, etc.), mediation protects the ongoing relationships involved and provides a foundation for future peace and comfort in that relationship. Litigation, and its winner/loser consequences, damages any continuing relationship, sometimes beyond repair.
Stress. Mediation is collaborative, non-adversarial, and comparatively less stressful and more comfortable emotionally. It is informal, with few "rules," and is confidential. Litigation is confrontational, stress-charged, and frustrating. It is marked by complex rules and procedure and publicly airs the dispute for all to hear.
Privacy. Mediation is a confidential, private process among the participants and the mediator, as contrasted with the public nature of the court pleadings and the trial in a lawsuit.
Resolution of the dispute. The participants are much more likely to comply with the terms of an agreement reached in mediation, which they crafted themselves, than they are to follow the terms of a decision imposed in litigation by someone with no stake in the dispute.