In New Jersey, mediation is a required first step to resolve child custody and financial issues before divorce litigation can begin. However, some spouses choose to use the mediation process to resolve all issues relating to their divorce. Mediation allows couples to come to an amicable agreement about how to part ways. This is not only healthy for the children involved but can eliminate the need to fight it out in court, saving both parties time and money.
Unlike courtroom litigation, mediation uses a neutral mediator. A mediator’s role is to prioritize issues and facilitate a negotiation. Couples who choose mediation are solely in charge of the outcome. This can allow a divorcing couple the flexibility to make changes to the original agreement without a return to court.
Dignity, Privacy, and Confidentiality
Mediation takes place in a private conference room, allowing for more privacy than a traditional courtroom would allow. Since it is the couple themselves who oversee the negotiations, accusations and personal information will not be used or evaluated to make final decisions. For example, child interviews or physiological evaluations will not be required to determine child custody arrangements. Couples can also maintain privacy regarding their financial situation.
Mediation allows a more stress-free process for divorce and this can naturally reduce conflict for both spouses. When a divorcing couple agrees on the division of property and child custody arrangements, no one walks away feeling angry and cheated. Although it may not be important for some spouses to maintain a relationship with their ex, staying friendly with an ex-spouse will go a long way in a child’s adjustment to the changes that follow a divorce.
Another added benefit of mediation is that both spouses tend to feel committed to the results. This means that parents are more likely to comply with child custody arrangements and child support payments, eliminating feelings of resentment that may follow a decision made by a judge. Additionally, since parents played a part in the decision-making process, they may feel more prepared to follow through with the new arrangements.
Choosing a Mediator
Choosing the right mediator is important and must be someone both parties respect. If a mediator is not a lawyer, it is important to consult with legal counsel before, during, and after mediation. Whether or not they attend the meetings, lawyers can help a client prepare for their mediation meetings and review written settlement agreements before they need to be signed. Once agreements have been made, they are very difficult to reverse.