For most New Jersey couples who have decided to end their marriage, the biggest concern is the anger and stress that usually accompany a divorce. Fortunately, the New Jersey family law bar and the state courts have devised a process that can materially reduce the stress of a divorce – and, in most cases, save both parties a considerable amount of money. The procedure is called mediation, and every person involved in a divorce should understand the mechanics of the process.
The basics of mediation
Mediation is based upon the involvement of a neutral third party, usually an attorney or former judge, to assist the parties in resolving the issues presented by their divorce. The most important element to understand is that the mediator has no power to decide on the resolution of an issue without the agreement of both parties. Instead, the mediator will attempt to suggest solutions to issues in the divorce, such as alimony, child custody and visitation, child support and property division.
The mediation process
Most mediators begin the mediation process with a joint meeting of both parties and their attorneys. Each party, usually speaking through their attorneys, lays out their concerns about issues raised by the divorce.
The mediator will usually meet separately with each couple. After the initial conference, the mediator may meet again with both parties or with each party separately. During the course of these meetings, the mediator will suggest solutions for the problems that the couple may be unable to resolve.
One of the issues that bedevils most divorcing couples is the disposition of the family residence. The mediator may be able to help the couple decide who will get possession of the house or whether the house should be sold to a third party with the net proceeds divided along with the balance of the marital estate.
Benefits of mediation
Mediation can be surprisingly effective in helping couples resolve the issues in their divorce without resorting to a lengthy and expensive trial. Individuals should also keep in mind that all mediation sessions are confidential and that most mediators will refuse to testify at trial. Anyone embarking on a divorce may wish to consult an experienced divorce attorney for advise on the benefits of mediation versus a trial.