If you are considering a divorce, you may associate the divorce process as a drawn-out affair full of bad feelings and acrimony. Although this may be true for some, thankfully, your divorce does not necessarily have to be that way, as in New Jersey, you have the option to choose to mediation, rather than litigation, in your divorce.
What is mediation?
Mediation is a type of collaborative divorce process where a neutral third party, called a mediator, facilitates a peaceful compromise between the divorcing parties. The mediator, who is experienced in handling divorce-related issues, encourages the parties to discuss the pertinent issues and come up with their own solutions to them.
Is a mediator like a judge?
Not at all. In divorce litigation, a judge's role is to make a decision based on the law. A mediator's role, on other hand, is to encourage the discussion and formation of creative solutions to the issues surrounding the divorce (e.g. child custody, alimony, property division and child support). The mediator may also recommend a solution if the parties are at a stalemate. Like litigation, each party has the right to be advised by an attorney during mediation, which can also help reach an acceptable compromise.
Is mediation binding?
If the divorcing parties can reach a solution of their issues, the mediator puts the terms in writing. Once the agreement is signed, it becomes binding like a court order.
What happens if I cannot reach an agreement?
If the parties are unable to reach an agreement or no longer want to continue the mitigation process, the outstanding issues can be litigated in court as in a traditional divorce.
What are the benefits of mediation?
One of the primary benefits of mediation is that it puts the divorcing couple in control of their fate after the divorce. Since the parties are free to come up with solutions that meet their unique needs, they are generally happier with the outcome. As a result, they are more likely to abide by the terms of the mediation agreement. Litigation, on the other hand, can often produce an unforeseen and undesired result, which can cause resentment and bitterness between the parties.
Additionally, mediation is much faster than litigation. In traditional divorce, it can take several months just to get a court date and over a year to reach a solution. Conversely, mediation is conducted at the convenience of the parties involved and can take as few as 2-3 months to complete. Since the mediation process has much fewer formalities than litigation (e.g. court appearances), it is typically significantly less expensive as well.
Finally, the collaborative process of mediation allows couples to avoid the toxic feelings towards each other that litigation can produce. This amicable environment is especially helpful if there are children involved, as the process largely avoids heated custody battles and allows the children to see their parents work together, instead of against each other, to reach a solution.
Speak to an attorney
Although the mediation process is attractive for many, it is not well suited for everyone's situation, especially if abuse is involved. To learn more about whether mediation is right for you, consult with an experienced family law attorney at Schepisi & McLaughlin, PA. Our attorneys have decades of experience in the collaborative and traditional divorce processes and can advise you on the better option for you.