What is Mediation? An Overview

Mediation is a method of resolving conflict that has become popular as an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process. ADR processes such as mediation and arbitration provide alternatives to the traditional route of resolving legal disputes in court. In recent decades the costs of litigation have spiraled out of control and crowded court calendars have limited access to many courts. Mediation offers cost savings and swift resolution of disputes, along with many other benefits.

Mediation is available to resolve any type of court case, but it is particularly well-suited to resolution of divorce cases and other family law matters. The process allows the parties in a legal dispute to reach their own mutually acceptable solutions in a confidential and non-binding out-of-court setting. A neutral third party, known as a mediator, guides the parties in their negotiations and helps them explore potential solutions, but does not make decisions for them the way that a judge or an arbitrator would.

Parties who participate in mediation and are unable to reach agreement on all of their issues generally retain the option of proceeding to court or continuing with a previously filed court case. Even removing one or two issues from a case often substantially reduces both the time and the costs necessary to resolve a case in court.

Mediation in Divorce

The litigation process frequently increases conflict and hostility in divorce. Through mediation, couples are able to approach their issues in a far less destructive and acrimonious manner than a court setting generally permits. Couples divorcing with children gain the priceless opportunity to use mediation to preserve and improve their abilities to parent together.

The mediation process varies somewhat depending on the particular nature of a dispute as well as on whether the process is privately mediated or court-ordered. Individual mediators also add their own personal style to the process. In the family law arena, courts often require divorcing spouses or parents with child custody disputes to attend court-ordered mediation. In New Jersey, the law requires many divorcing spouses to mediate not only custody or parenting-time disputes, but also economic disputes over matters such as property distribution or alimony payments, before proceeding to trial on any of these issues.

For more information on the mediation process in divorce, see Divorce Mediation

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Benefits of Divorce Mediation

Regardless of whether you are choosing private mediation or are participating in a mandatory court-ordered mediation process, there will be distinct advantages to mediating your issues as opposed to litigating them. These are just a few of the major benefits:

  • The participants control the mediation process.
  • The participants also control the results.
  • The participants retain confidentiality.
  • Mediation reduces conflict.
  • Mediation protects children from conflict.
  • Mediation saves time.
  • Mediation saves money.

For more information about mediation and how to apply mediation to your family law or divorce matter, see: How to Begin Mediation – A Checklist

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