Divorce Mediation is fast becoming the option of choice for many divorcing couples; the reasons being that it is private, faster and less expensive than litigation. While these reasons are certainly meritorious, perhaps one of the best reasons is that it strives to be non-adversarial.
The emotional devastation of divorce is hard enough without adding the tug-of-war uncertainty over not only financial issues but parenting issues. Mediation is meant to have the participants come to the table to resolve their disputes – not argue over them. This allows the participants to keep the damage to their relationship at a minimum, so that when the divorce is over, they can hopefully maintain an ongoing civil relationship. This will not only benefit them, but their children as well.
While mediation is not for everyone, rarely is litigation a preferred method for anyone. By proceeding through the Court system, you are at the mercy of the Court’s timetable. If you are called into Court for a Case Management Conference, an Early Settlement Panel hearing or an argument on a Motion, you are just one of many waiting your turn. When you finally do get called, there may be time constraints because of the Court’s other obligations that day.
Mediation allows you to choose the day, the time and, within reason, how long you wish to meet. Further, you are meeting with one mediator, whose fees are generally shared between the parties.
Of course, attorneys are still instrumental in helping you through your divorce. You will still want to confer with an attorney to discuss your rights and obligations under the law before discussing your position at a mediation session, and you may have legal questions that can only be answered by an attorney.
For example, the difficult issue of alimony is very hard to mediate if the parties do not know what the law is or how it is applied. A mediator, although many times an attorney, is not acting in the capacity of an attorney, but as a facilitator. While the mediator can help the parties accumulate the financial facts of the case, including both parties’ incomes and the monthly expenses of each party going forward, it is important for each party to know and understand what factors a Court will consider in awarding alimony and for how long.
Both parties must also understand what assets are subject to equitable distribution, and what equitable distribution means under New Jersey law. This knowledge is crucial to the mediation process because it then allows the parties to actively engage in the process of reaching an agreement.
Given the positives in weighing mediation against litigation, it appears that more and more divorcing couples are choosing mediation.
Maria Imbalzano is a Shareholder in the Divorce group at Stark & Stark, 993 Lenox Drive, Lawrenceville, NJ. 609-896-9060. www.stark-stark.com