For most divorcing couples, mediation is far superior to litigation as a method of resolving disagreements. While litigation generally increases negativity and hostility by forcing parties into win-lose positions, mediation approaches conflict from the opposite direction, encouraging collaboration and creative problem-solving. The presence of a neutral mediator prevents divorcing spouses from falling into unproductive communication styles. The mediator guides them through the process of collecting and sharing information and helps them to stay focused on major issues without becoming sidetracked or overwhelmed.
Divorcing couples choosing private mediation can use the process to resolve all issues in their divorce case, or they can limit mediation to one or two isolated issues. In some cases, courts require spouses to participate in court-ordered mediation for certain aspects of a divorce. New Jersey law requires many divorcing spouses to mediate both parenting disputes and economic disputes before proceeding to trial.
While mediation remains the best option for most divorcing couples, it is not for everyone. Successful divorce mediation generally requires that both sides be willing to compromise. In some situations, such as those involving domestic violence or other extreme power differentials, mediation may not be the best choice. If you are uncertain whether or not the process is right for you, a careful discussion with an attorney can help you decide.
Mediating Issues in Divorce
Mediation is available for settling any and all issues in divorce and family law matters, including:
Dividing marital assets and debts. Settling issues of property distribution is often time-consuming due to the necessity of collecting and sorting through a large quantity of financial information. Relying on formal court discovery procedures adds layers of time and expense to an already arduous process. Mediation can streamline the collection and sorting process, greatly simplifying even highly complex cases involving division of many different types of assets and debts. While complex property distribution cases may require more mediation sessions, as well as assistance from financial experts, the time and cost of mediation will generally still be much lower than the time and cost of a litigated process. Using joint experts and summary reports can increase cost-effectiveness.
Negotiating alimony. New Jersey law allows for several different types of alimony based on factors such as one spouse's need for financial support and the other's ability to provide it. Court awards regarding alimony are difficult to predict due to the large number of factors that may impact an award. Judges have great discretion over how to weigh factors in each case, and different judges often view similar sets of facts quite differently. Mediation will allow you and your spouse to consider all of the applicable factors and use your own judgment to reach a fair and reasonable decision regarding the type and duration of any alimony one of you pays to the other.
Negotiating parenting issues. Parties choosing private mediation can address parenting issues in the same process as financial issues. For more information on the benefits of using divorce mediation to resolve issues of child custody and visitation and build mutually acceptable parenting plans, see: Children and Mediation.
Divorce mediation is highly flexible. Private mediation is available before a divorce petition is filed, at any point later in the divorce case, or even after a final divorce petition to mediate post-judgment issues. If you attempt to resolve your entire case in mediation but find yourselves stuck in one or two areas, you can still proceed to court to resolve your remaining issues.
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