Getting divorced can be one of the most stressful events in one’s lifetime. The process can also be expensive and protracted. The cost and emotional upheaval may make the process seem daunting. But if you think you and your soon-to-be ex might be able to agree on the division of property and/or child-related issues, divorce mediation in NJ could help you save both stress and money in your divorce.
What Is Mediation?
Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”), meaning it is one of the methods used to resolve legal cases without going through expensive litigation or going to trial. In mediation, a neutral third party, usually a lawyer, meets with the parties to a case to help them find solutions to resolve their differences without court intervention.
A mediator does not represent either of the parties and does not give legal advice. The mediator’s job is to make sure the parties address all issues necessary to resolve their case by moderating their discussion of the issues. The mediator in a given case should also be experienced in the area of law governing the parties’ issues.
What Issues Can Be Resolved Using Divorce Mediation in NJ?
Divorce mediation in NJ can be used to resolve all of the issues that arise in a divorce. Parties in every divorce must address economic issues. This means identifying, valuing, and dividing the marital assets and debts.
While it may seem that naming what you own and owe would be easy, it’s not always that straightforward. Assets can be either tangible, meaning something you can touch, or intangible, such as accounts and other financial investments. Tangible assets include things like houses, cars, furniture, and personal belongings. Those are easy to identify. Intangible assets are items like bank accounts, retirement and pension accounts, life insurance with a cash value, and stock options. Sometimes parties do not realize that an account or financial option has a cash value that is part of the marital estate. Additionally, debts of one or both spouses may be considered marital debts under the law.
Couples with children must also resolve child-related issues regarding custody, parenting time, and child support. Child custody in New Jersey refers to the living arrangements of the child. Related to that, the parties must also determine the amount of time the child is with each parent, sometimes called parenting time or visitation. Parenting time includes weekly parenting time as well as a plan for extended parenting time, such as for vacations; holiday parenting time; and special day parenting time, such as the child’s and each parent’s birthdays.
Overview of Divorce Mediation in NJ
Divorce mediation in NJ helps couples wishing to avoid the costs and delays associated with a divorce trial. Couples may choose to mediate, or the court may order the parties to mediate one or more issues. Couples may choose to hire a private mediator. Alternatively, the NJ court-sponsored mediation system separates mediation of economic or financial issues from mediation of child-related issues.
In custody mediation, the mediator or mediators discuss with both parents the possible custody arrangements for your children. Mediators are usually attorneys, but they can also be court personnel or other individuals with family law experience. If you reach an agreement during custody mediation, the agreement is likely binding, meaning it would be difficult for you to later change your mind.
For the division of property, New Jersey courts sponsor mediation through a Matrimonial Early Settlement Panel (“MESP”). Each spouse or his or her attorney provides the details of the parties’ assets and debts to a panel of mediators. After conferring, the panel advises the couple how its members believe the court would rule regarding the division of property if the case were to go to trial. The couple can then negotiate a settlement using that information. MESPs take place at the courthouse, so, if the parties reach an agreement, they can have that entered on the record the same day, making the agreement binding. If the parties do not reach an agreement after MESP the Court will require the couple to attend a private mediation with a mediator of their choosing for at least one hour, the cost of which is usually divided. The parties can attend mediation at any time prior to it being ordered by the Court and it is not unusual for parties to attend more than one session of mediation.
Do I Need an Attorney for New Jersey Divorce Mediation?
Again, the mediator does not represent either party and cannot give legal advice, but parties may have their attorneys attend and participate in the mediation to fill that gap and provide legal counsel. In all types of mediation, spouses have the choice of representing themselves, of consulting an attorney before and after the mediation, or of having an attorney attend the mediation with him or her. If having an attorney at the mediation is cost-prohibitive, a spouse could consult an attorney before the mediation. At that meeting, the attorney can help prepare the client for mediation and offer advice on the law as it applies in that particular case. The spouse can then meet with the attorney after the mediation to discuss the offers being presented.
Why Choose Divorce Mediation in NJ?
Mediation has a key benefit over litigating a divorce: the parties are in control. In mediation, the parties have a say in how they divide assets and what the terms of custody and parenting time will be. If the matter were to go to trial, each party would only have the opportunity to voice his or her wishes, but the court would be the ultimate decision-maker.
Additionally, the process of divorce can be costly and take a long time. Divorce mediation in NJ can significantly reduce those costs and delays. And mediation of child-related issues can help keep the process amicable between the parties and help avoid passing some of the stress of divorce on to the children.
If you are interested in mediating your NJ divorce, consult Elizabeth Rozin-Golinder at Rozin | Golinder Law, by filling out this Contact Form or calling (732) 810-0034. Located in East Brunswick, Elizabeth Rozin-Golinder has experience as an NJ divorce attorney and the firm is available for your mediation needs and can help you in your New Jersey divorce mediation.