The New Jersey court system is growing increasingly back-logged so that if you file for divorce today, it may be years and tens of thousands of dollars before you get in front of a judge for a trial. Divorce mediation is a faster, more streamlined alternative to resolve your divorce without waiting for your turn in a years long line of divorce cases that were filed before yours.
It allows you to participate in the decision-making, giving you a say in the outcome of your divorce.
How Does Divorce Mediation Work?
Mediation is a form of alternate dispute resolution (ADR) where a mediator acts as a neutral third party to assist the parties with reaching an agreement. The mediator is typically an experienced attorney with knowledge of family law. The courts require litigants involved in the court system to mediate at various points in the case, but only after the court proceedings have commenced (custody & parenting time mediation occurs with court staff and Post MESP mediation is required for most cases). Mediation is confidential and not binding until an agreement is written and signed by everyone.
How do we start mediation?
If you are already involved with family court, you an agree to mediate at any time. You can attend mediation at any time before the court is involved if the other side agrees to mediate. Starting mediation early in the dispute can curtail the costs of divorce or post judgment litigation.
When do we start mediation?
Rather than waiting until the litigation has commenced, it makes sense to start the mediation process early. You can agree to set a date in mediation as the end date of the marriage, as if a complaint for divorce was filed, which may provide assurances that you are engaging in the mediation process with the best of intentions. Typically, parties to mediation exchange necessary financial information and other documents and records sufficient to allow an honest and direct airing of the issues. You can discuss with the mediator how extensive this exchange of information needs to be early in the process. This exchange of information is known as “discovery.” Discovery can be targeted to avoid unnecessary time and wasted funds.
How much does mediation cost?
Mediation can be a cost effective way to resolve your divorce and post-divorce disputes. The mediator is paid by the hour and the cost is typically far lower than if the case was heard by the Court.
Do I need a lawyer if I chose to attend mediation?
You always have the right to seek advice from an attorney. The mediator is not giving you legal advice, but is using his/her knowledge of the law to help guide you toward a resolution. Talking to an attorney who represents you will help you understand the parameters of what a reasonable settlement looks like for you and will help you understand the consequences of the terms of settling the case as discussed in mediation. You can also decide whether or not you want your attorney to attend mediation with you or to review the tentative agreement reached in mediation before you sign and are bound by the terms.
How We Can Help.
It is important to pick a mediator who has experience handling and mediating complex issues. When necessary, parties to mediation can agree to use joint experts or the mediator can select the expert.
Careful selection of your mediator may be the most important decision you make towards a satisfactory and timely resolution of your divorce.
Morris Downing & Sherred family law attorney, Dina Mikulka, is a trained divorce trained mediator, certified matrimonial law attorney and Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and is ready to help resolve your divorce. Ms. Mikulka has been a family lawyer with 20 years of experience in all aspects of family law.