Divorce can be complex and expensive. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be.
When looking for a less contentious, more collaborative experience, couples increasingly choose alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation over traditional divorce litigation.
And while mediation offers many benefits to couples ending their marriage, it’s still essential to work with a trusted attorney as you navigate the best path forward for your family.
What is divorce mediation?
Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution widely used in lieu of (and in some cases, in tandem with) courtroom litigation in almost every industry and legal specialty. It can be particularly helpful in divorce and other family law matters.
Where a traditional divorce proceeding leaves the court with the final say on issues like child support, child custody and parenting time, alimony, and asset division, mediation offers divorcing couples the opportunity to decide for themselves what will work best for their situation.
In a mediation session, a neutral third party (i.e., the mediator) works to help both parties understand and come to a mutually satisfactory agreement about outstanding issues in their case. If spouses can agree on all points, the mediator will generally draft an agreement that the parties will review and sign (often with the help of a lawyer) and which will then be filed with the court for entry.
Why should I choose mediation?
There are many reasons people seek out mediation during their divorce proceedings.
Because it focuses so heavily on compromise, understanding, and courteous communication, using a mediator can help reduce the conflicts that can result from more adversarial approaches to divorce. It can also increase productive conversation, which leads to creative outcomes.
Mediation also tends to be easier on children, as there are no “winning” or “losing” sides, and parents are not being pitted against one another.
Mediation allows divorcing couples to work through matters at their own pace, allowing plenty of time to research and ask questions without having to make a quick decision in the midst of a stressful situation.
Mediators also tend to have more availability and a more flexible schedule than the court system can provide, which means your divorce may be finalized more quickly.
While the cost of divorce can vary significantly depending on the complexity of the matters involved and the levels of cooperation between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse, mediation is often more affordable than the cost of litigation or arbitration.
What to look for in your divorce mediator
If highly sensitive issues like your custody arrangements or asset distribution are on the line, it’s crucial to find a qualified divorce mediator who understands what is at stake. For example, many couples choose to work with mediators who are also family law attorneys. This allows the mediator to be familiar with the law, nuances, and complexities the parties may face. This also allows for creative solutions the mediator may have seen before or to provide options other divorcing couples may have brainstormed in the past.
Here are a few things to look for when choosing a third-party mediator.
Unless they are also a family law attorney, a divorce mediator is not a legal advisor. Their job is to act as an impartial facilitator to people navigating their divorce.
Depending on the facts of your situation, it may be helpful to seek out a mediator with experience in specific family law situations. For example, if you have assets from a family business that need to be divided, having a mediator who understands business would be helpful.
Don’t be afraid to ask a potential mediator what training or certifications they have, even if they are also a divorce lawyer.
A mediator isn’t a judge, but in the case of divorce mediation, they do facilitate negotiations and help control the cadence and type of communication between the parties. This ultimately helps reduce further conflict.
Look for a professional who:
- Provides precise, direct communication with clear expectations
- Displays an ability to stay calm and manage difficult situations
- Can explain how mediation works in a way everyone understands
Ultimately, you want to work with someone who reduces friction between you and your ex-partner in a way that works for both parties.
Style and approach
Mediation will only be successful if both parties respect the requests and rules of the mediator. Even though divorce means splitting up, identify a mediator who is mutually agreeable. If you and your partner both feel comfortable and confident that your concerns will be recognized, the process will go much more smoothly for everyone involved.
Since a more efficient timeline is a common reason divorcing couples choose mediation, it makes sense to ask about a mediator’s schedule and timeline management processes.
- How do they ensure everyone comes to mediation sessions prepared?
- Will they follow up with both parties between sessions?
- Do they usually close their cases in a timely manner?
If your mediator can’t answer these questions, they may not be the right fit for you.
If you’re in need of a New Jersey divorce mediator, Jacobs Berger can help
Mediators can do a lot of things, but if they are licensed divorce attorneys, that isn’t the role they are serving. This is why it’s helpful to retain a divorce lawyer to review your mediated divorce settlement.
The lawyers at Jacobs Berger are experienced in every aspect of mediation. With qualified family law mediators on our team, we can lead meditations as a neutral third party, review mediated agreements for you, and more.
If you need help with your New Jersey divorce mediation, schedule a coordination call today.