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FAQs About Mediation and Our Answers
For many people who are going through a divorce, stress can come from many different directions. One of those sources of anxiety is the fear of having to go to court and the associated costs.
One way divorcing couples allay this tension is by choosing mediation, also called an alternative dispute resolution option. But while some have heard of the term, others aren’t sure what it means and what it entails.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we hear about mediation and how it can help you in your divorce proceeding.
In short, mediation is the process a couple agrees to go through if they’re divorcing and wish to have the assistance of a mediator who’ll act as a neutral third party. In some cases, the mediation may be court-ordered, while some parties agree on their own to do this.
Usually, a court may order mediation if there are issues regarding child custody. However, if a couple agrees to a private mediator, any issues – including the distribution of assets – can be handled by the mediator.
In many ways, the parties involved in the divorce feel better about the outcome of the mediation because they have had a say in the process. In most divorce cases, each side presents their case, and the judge makes a ruling. In a mediation, the divorcing couple will work back and forth with the mediator to come to a mutually acceptable outcome.
What’s a Mediator?
A mediator is usually an attorney who has agreed to serve as a neutral third party to help resolve these legal issues. They don’t work for either party and are there to go back and forth with both sides.
The purpose isn’t to punish one side or help one side “win.” Instead, they recognize that it may be hard for the parties to communicate because of their personal problems with each other. So, they can be the go-between. However, while they are attorneys, they do not provide legal advice to the parties.
How Is a Mediator Chosen for Us?
The New Jersey court system maintains an online list of mediators who can be used in the mediation process. This website is searchable and is updated regularly with the names of mediators who’ve met the training requirements to be included.
If the two parties want to go through mediation voluntarily, they should select from this list and contact the mediator about availability. If the court mandates mediation, the two parties have 14 days to agree on a mediator and make the selection. If they don’t choose a mediator within those 14 days, then one will be chosen for them by the court.
How Can Mediation Help My Case?
The mediation process can be used for almost any divorce proceeding. However, it can be especially helpful in cases involving child custody and visitation, division of assets and alimony, or even the details of a prenuptial agreement.
Ultimately, your attorney will talk with you and help you decide if your case is a good fit for the mediation process. There are several benefits that can come from using a mediator as opposed to going to court. These include:
- The mediation process can be cheaper than a full court proceeding. It’s also less formal than a court hearing, which can lessen your anxiety.
- The mediator is specifically trained and encouraged to “think outside the box” with creative solutions. This may differ from the types of rulings made by family court judges.
- The mediation doesn’t have each party present their side, with the judge making a decision. Often at the end of a court hearing, one side feels like they won, and the other side feels like they lost. Mediation is a back-and-forth process that allows both sides to give and take so they can both get something out of it.
- Finally, mediation is more of a confidential process. Court proceedings are part of the public record. However, mediation is private.
How Much Does Mediation Cost?
Ultimately, the cost of mediation is in direct proportion to the cooperation of the two parties. A mediator must offer the first two hours on a case for free. (This will include an initial one-hour meeting.) After that, the mediator can charge their normal professional fee.
If two parties are willing to cooperate and can be reasonable enough to come to a mutually acceptable agreement, then the cost should be relatively low. If the mediation is extended by constant bickering and arguing, the cost will go up. It all depends on the case and the attitudes of the two parties.
What Happens During Mediation?
Basically, a mediation will follow these steps:
- A mediator will explain the process and goals to each of the participants.
- The participants will each explain what they see as needing resolution and how they would like to see this resolved.
- The mediator will encourage the two parties to discuss their proposals to understand where the “sticking points” are.
- The parties will also have time to meet privately with the mediator to express their concerns.
- The two parties will then begin negotiating until an agreement is reached.
- Once the two parties reach an agreement, then the mediator will write it up, have them sign it, and file it with the court. If an agreement can’t be reached, then the mediator may recommend going to court or choosing someone for arbitration.
Mediation Is a Great Option for the Dissolution of a Marriage
For those who wish to avoid having to go to court, mediation is a viable alternative. It can ensure that both parties have a say in how the case is resolved and can possibly get you a more favorable outcome.
Contact the Experienced Family Law Attorneys at Smedley Law Group in West Deptford, NJ Today for Help With Mediation
If you’re thinking about filing for divorce, you’ll also most likely be dealing with another matter like child custody, child support, or division of assets, so you’ll need to speak with a qualified attorney to learn about alternative dispute resolution options like mediation. The New Jersey family law attorneys at Smedley Law Group represent clients throughout the state, including West Deptford, Woodbury Heights, Runnemede, and Westville. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at (856) 251-0800 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 750 Cooper Street, Woodbury, NJ 08096.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you’re seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.