We hear it all the time, getting divorced in New Jersey takes too long and costs too much. To many times couples are asked to wait months before they are given the opportunity to appear before a judge, only to then become more frustrated as they are forced to sit and wait in a hall or crowded courtroom until it is their turn. While they sit and wait, the same statement is made over and over, “There has to be a better way.” Well, there is. It’s called Mediation.
Mediation is a non-adversarial process in which a couple will sit down with a trained mediator to try to work out an agreement that both of them can live with. It is something that you can do even if one of you has already filed for divorce or if you are even divorced already and are trying to avoid returning to court.
The first step is to choose a mediator to work with. The mediator needs to be someone both of you are comfortable with. You are going to be exploring difficult issues and you both want someone that each of you feel you can be open and honest with.
Once you find a mediator your next step is going to be agreeing on where the disagreements actually lie. Once the disputed issues are established, the mediator will go about exploring those issues with you, usually by asking questions and reviewing documents, one at a time. The idea is that through discussing the issue, and answering the questions honestly, a resolution will become apparent. The mediator may also offer suggestions or options you might not have originally thought of or might have discarded without fully exploring. The Mediator will not decide an issue, like a judge, and cannot advise you on what you should or should not do. Hopefully, after going through this process, you will be able to reach an agreement on the assorted issues, avoiding the need to engage in litigation in the Courts.
There are many benefits to mediation both emotionally and financially. In most cases, mediation is faster than litigation. This in turn avoids the unnecessary strain of waiting for the court to reach your case, and the added cost of repeated court delays. In addition, couples participating in mediation can be more creative in structuring an arrangement that will work best for them. This increases each person’s feeling of satisfaction and the likelihood that an agreement will be followed. Finally, mediation is private. There is no need to file inflammatory papers with the court or to file disclosure forms detailing your finances or parenting issues. All of the discomfort in opening up your life to the court is avoided.
If you are still able to work amicably with one another, and are willing to try to compromise on issues to reach a fair resolution, then mediation is an excellent option regardless of where you are in the divorce process.