Must I Attend Divorce Mediation in New Jersey?

Divorce mediation in New Jersey is usually an efficient, cost-effective, and more economical way to solve some (or all) of the severe issues arising from your divorce. These issues can be discussed using a third party (the mediator) and can all be done outside a formal courtroom.

The New Jersey courts may require you and your spouse to at least attempt to go through mediation prior to court intervention, even if the result yields no solid answers.

However, unless a New Jersey judge orders you and your spouse to go through mediation, or the dispute arises after you divorce decree and the Marital Settlement Agreement itself mandates it, your and your spouse’s participation is voluntary. Unless you have a court order, or the Judgement of Divorce compels you to attend, you can commonly refuse to attend the mediation hearing.
To be clear, you can refuse to attend if the court does not mandate the mediation hearing (via court order). If you are mandated to attend, using a court order, etc., you must be there or suffer harsh penalties.

Divorce mediation is not a complex process and typically consists of a group of meetings between you and your spouse and a third-party neutral mediator. Also, you may elect to have your divorce lawyer present during the sessions.

Divorce is rarely a pleasant experience; some are worse than others. If you and your spouse are, at the least, civil with each other, mediation can help solve severe issues such as child custody, visitation rights, financial matters (including alimony), child support, and more. By working through mediation you can come to decisions on critical issues and save yourselves time, money, and severe stress.

It’s also important to note that the New Jersey courts may require you, and your spouse, to attend a mandatory “Early Settlement Panel.” In this meeting, a group of family lawyers will listen to facts concerning any economic matters. Therefore, if you both can resolve all the financial issues in your divorce (and, through mediation, resolve child custody matters), you’re ready to have your lawyers draft your final settlement.

Ideally, The New Jersey courts want you to come to court with all the critical issues in your divorce finalized. So, by using mediation and the Early Settlement Panel, you can expedite the divorce process. It should be noted that it’s always in your best interest to have your experienced and knowledgeable Morris County divorce lawyer by your side. Doing so can help ensure your interests are protected and nothing is overlooked.

What Are Some Penalties If I Don’t Attend a Court-Ordered Mediation?

Always be aware that if the New Jersey court orders you to attend a mediation session, then attending this session is not voluntary, and you must be there. You may not be able to resolve all your issues at the mediation, but you must attend and, at least, make a concerted attempt to cooperate.

If you refuse to show up or just don’t, you violate a court order; violating any court order may carriy harsh consequences.

If you miss the mediation meeting due to unavoidable issues, such as a medical emergency, or car accident, that can be dealt with by your lawyer. However, if you deliberately skip mediation, you can, and usually will, face severe court sanctions. For example, you could be held in contempt of court and have to face community service, fines, and/or be ordered to pay your spouse’s attorney fees.

If you refuse to attend a court-mandated mediation session, you will most likely still have to pay for all the mediator’s fees. If you or your spouse don’t show, then whoever followed the court’s orders could be granted certain rights in the divorce.

If you can’t, or don’t wish, to attend a divorce mediation session, consult your experienced divorce lawyer first and follow their advice to the letter.

Can We Voluntarily Obtain Mediation and When?

At any time before or during your divorce litigation, you and your spouse can voluntarily choose to try mediation. If you agree on most matters (or not), it’s often your right to select a mediator and begin the process. With the help of your Morris County divorce lawyer, you both present information to your mediator, consider the possible insights and recommendations your mediator provides, and then finalize all aspects of your divorce.

As a divorcing spouse, you can use mediation to solve problems or all the issues involved in your divorce, no matter how simple or complex.

For example, if you have children involved, you could be able to come to terms with visitation, custody, child support, etc. Mediation will keep your overall cost down while still arriving at an amicable and rational resolution to your issues.

What’s vital to remember is that your experienced and knowledgeable Morris County divorce lawyer’s help will be invaluable in helping you with what and how to present your requests to the mediator. The mediator works for both of you, but your divorce lawyer works on your behalf only.

What Do I Need To Prepare for Divorce Mediation?

Your divorce mediator is a neutral third party that will review all the facts you present and help you and your spouse formulate rational, workable, and reasonable solutions for your unique divorce situation.

A few items to consider while preparing for your first divorce mediation meeting are:

  • Find a Qualified, Experienced Mediator – By researching, you can choose a mediator with the proper experience, qualifications, and negotiating skills for the job.
  • Organize your information – It’s critical to complete a list of all assets and all the information regarding the issues you must resolve.
  • Have Reasonable Goals – Make a list of what you wish to achieve after your divorce is finalized and set clear goals.
  • Attempt to Cooperate – Proper mediation is designed to be a rational, non-adversarial alternative to divorce litigation. Therefore, you must be ready for compromise.

Most importantly, discuss all aspects of your divorce with your Morris County divorce law team, especially any changes to mediation statutes that have occurred. For example, New Jersey Statutes  Amendments to Rule 1:40-5(b), so that you can enter mediation with confidence that your goals, plans, and future are mapped out correctly.

I May Want to Enter Divorce Mediation; What Should I Do?

No divorce is too simple or too complex for Divorce Mediation to be effective. However, you must be prepared, detailed, and ready to compromise.

The first and most vital legal path is to discuss your divorce situation with a qualified, experienced, and aggressive Morris County divorce lawyer. Your lawyer will analyze all the pertinent facts and advise whether divorce mediation suits you, your children, and your future.

You are never mandated to agree to anything during mediation. However, if done correctly, with the legal guidance required, it can be a remarkably effective tool to help you move on with your new life.