Should I Go Through Divorce Mediation Before My Divorce?
As long as you and your ex-spouse are willing to communicate, mediation is a voluntary process that you both would agree to go through together. Further, it is usually less stressful and costly than the more traditional N.J. divorce process.
Additionally, most couples who use mediation prepare for a “no-fault divorce.” Still, any couple willing to cooperate can use the mediation process to reach the best possible agreement for themselves and their children.
There are specific times, however, after you’ve filed for divorce in New Jersey that your judge could order you and your spouse to attend a mediation session. This usually occurs in the following two circumstances:
- Mediation of custody disputes – Whenever anyone files a divorce complaint or a motion involving child custody or parenting time, the judge’s staff will usually screen the case to see if the parents have a genuine, substantial custody dispute. If so, then the judge will mandate you go through custody mediation.
- Mediation of substantial financial disputes in your divorce – If you’re divorcing or already divorced and haven’t been able to resolve economic issues, the judge may require you to participate in an alternative dispute resolution process known as an Early Settlement Program (ESP). This is not the same as divorce mediation but is another way to fairly and respectfully solve the dispute. If your case does not settle after ESP you will be ordered to attend economic mediation for one to two sessions. Some couples will choose to continue.
Of course, every divorce case differs in the details, financial and custody arrangements, and more. If you and your spouse can discuss the situation rationally, divorce mediation is a preferred way to settle critical decisions before you go before a judge.
To decide if divorce mediation is suitable, consult an experienced Morris County divorce lawyer. Your lawyer’s guidance, advice, and knowledge of the New Jersey divorce process will be invaluable in making this decision.
How Can I Prepare For the Divorce Mediation Process?
Remember that the divorce mediator is a neutral third party that will weigh all the facts you present and will help you formulate reasonable solutions for your family.
So, there are a few steps to take to prepare for your first divorce mediation meeting, they are:
- Pick a Qualified, Experienced Mediator – By doing some research, you can choose a mediator with the proper experience, qualifications, and negotiating skills for the job. Your mediator will attempt to create a stress-free environment and help you and your spouse come to a fair and reasonable agreement on pertinent issues.
- Get Yourself Organized – It’s critical to complete a list of all assets and debts you both have and bring them with you. Complete a listing of all information as to bank accounts, mortgages, vehicles, credit card balances, valuable property, retirement funds, etc.
- Set Reasonable Goals – Make a list of what you wish to achieve after your divorce is finalized and set clear goals. For example, if you have children, it is essential to consider the best custody situation for all of you. Mediation is the time to raise all vital pertinent questions, so the mediator can effectively do their job.
- Be Ready to Cooperate – Proper mediation is designed to be a rational, non-adversarial alternative to divorce litigation. That said, it’s necessary to go into it ready to be respectful and participate in a productive discussion.
Discuss the entire process thoroughly with your Morris County divorce law team. With their experienced and detailed help, you should be able to enter mediation with confidence that your goals, plans, and future are mapped out.
What Are Some Examples of Items I’ll Discuss in Mediation?
Divorce is almost always messy, emotional, and disturbing for everyone in your family, especially if children are involved. Divorce mediation is designed to be a “neutral ground” where you and your spouse can work with a mediator to come to a legally binding, mutually satisfying agreement.
As stated, each case differs, but usually, the following items are addressed in mediation:
- Child custody and child support.
- Alimony to be paid; how much and to whom.
- Parenting time is allotted fairly.
- An equitable distribution of all mutually owned assets and debts.
- The family home and any other real estate holdings and ownership.
- Details as to family health insurance.
- Retirement accounts, such as 401k’s, etc.
- Family pets, and more.
Suppose you and your divorce lawyer thoroughly discuss your financial and familial situation. In that case, you should be able to enter mediation with a clear, precisely drafted picture of how you want your divorce to be structured. The more exact you are in your goals, the better the mediator can rationally suggest compromises when differences occur.
Is Divorce Mediation Legally Binding, and Can It Be Altered Later On?
You must note that your mediator is not a judge and does not possess the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf. Therefore the final agreement is not legally binding. This Agreement, known as a Memorandum of Understanding should be taken to your individual attorneys for a final review before it is draft into the final version known as a Marital Settlement Agreement which you and your spouse will sign. This then becomes a binding agreement.
However, after your divorce is finalized and one of your financial circumstances (or otherwise) changes, you should be able to modify the terms of the original agreement.
If you and your ex-spouse agree to any changes, it becomes easy. However, at times, post-divorce mediation is also available for couples who are forced to revisit the decisions made in their original divorce.
I Need Information On Divorce Mediation; How Should I Proceed?
You must know that no divorces are too simple or too complex for Divorce Mediation to be effective. However, you must be prepared, thoroughly detailed, and rational during the process.
The first sound legal step is to discuss your divorce situation with a qualified, experienced, and aggressive Morris County divorce lawyer. After thoroughly analyzing all pertinent aspects of your divorce, your lawyer can advise you on whether divorce mediation suits you, your children, and your future.
Remember that you’re never mandated to agree to anything during mediation. However, if done correctly, with the correct legal guidance, it can be a remarkably effective tool in moving forward, as you would want, during your divorce.