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FAQs About Mediation and Our Answers
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we hear about mediation and how it can help you in your divorce proceeding.
For many people facing a divorce, stress can come from many different directions. One stressor is the fear of having to go to court, and then spending too much time and money on the divorce process.
One way divorcing couples allay this tension and settle their divorce on their own terms is by choosing mediation, also called an alternative dispute resolution option.
Alison B. Weinroth, Esq., Senior Counsel for Smedley Law Group, offers mediation services, both in person and virtually. “As a practicing family law attorney for over 20 years, my mediation practice concentrates on assisting families in all economic and custody aspects,” she says. “Mediation allows the parties to control the decisions that affect their family, their children, their finances, and their future relationship.”
While some people facing divorce have heard of mediation, many aren’t sure exactly what it means and what it entails. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we hear about mediation at Smedley Law Group and how it can help you in your divorce proceeding.
In short, mediation is a non-adversarial process a divorcing couple agrees to go through to avoid the costs and delays in court. A mediator acts as a neutral third party helping to facilitate the negotiations of the parties. In some cases, the mediation may be court-ordered, while some parties agree on their own to do this.
“Many couples choose divorce mediation because it’s a quicker, less costly, more amicable process than going through the courts,” Ms. Weinroth says. “The goal of divorce mediation is to arrive at a mutually satisfying, legally binding agreement that takes into consideration the needs and desires of both parties. By providing a safe environment to be heard, participants in mediation often find better resolutions to their conflict and learn to communicate more effectively.”
In many ways, the parties involved in a divorce feel better about the outcome of the mediation because they control the process. In most divorce cases, each side presents their case, and the judge makes a ruling. In a mediation, the mediator will assist the divorcing couple in reaching a mutually acceptable outcome that aligns with their goals for life after the split.
What’s a Mediator?
A mediator is usually an attorney who’s agreed to serve as a neutral third party to help resolve these legal issues. They don’t represent either party and are a neutral third party there to assist the parties to resolve their matter.
The purpose isn’t to punish one side or help one side “win.” Instead, the mediator recognizes that it may be hard for the parties to communicate because of their personal problems with each other. So, they often act as the go-between. However, while they’re attorneys, they don’t provide legal advice to the parties. In other words, the mediator won’t provide advice or advocate for one of the parties or recommend that they accept a certain settlement.
“During mediation sessions, I’ll assist the parties to identify issues and interests, and explore options for resolution,” Ms. Weinroth says. “I don’t make decisions for the parties, but instead help them reach their own agreements in a positive, constructive way.”
How Is a Mediator Chosen for Us?
You and your ex-partner can choose mediation right off the bat to settle your divorce. However, if you’ve started litigation and have had a change of heart, you and your ex can choose to change course. That way, you can choose to mediate in a cost-effective, non-adversarial way.
You should know that the court does its own mediation at the courthouse if there are issues regarding child custody during your divorce. The court can also order economic mediation to address financial issues, distribution of assets, and more. However, if a couple agrees to a private mediator, any issues – including the distribution of assets – can be handled by the mediator.
If the court mandated mediation, the parties have an opportunity to agree on a mediator or the court will appoint one. The New Jersey court system maintains an online list of mediators who can be chosen in the economic 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 a mediator such as Ms. Weinroth, and then contact Smedley Law Group about her availability.
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, Ms. Weinroth 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 less costly and less formal than a full court proceeding. Knowing this can lessen your anxiety.
- A mediator like Ms. Weinroth is specifically trained and encouraged to “think outside the box” with creative solutions. This often differs from the types of rulings made by family court judges, as they’re required to apply the law and cannot be creative in a resolution.
- Mediation is a back-and-forth process that allows both sides to control the process and come to a middle ground, so they can both get something out of it. The mediation doesn’t have each party present their side, with a judge making the ultimate ruling. Often, at the end of a court hearing, one side feels like they “won,” and the other side feels like they “lost.”
- Finally, mediation is a confidential process. Court proceedings are part of the public record. However, mediation is private, solely between the two parties and the mediator.
How Much Does Mediation Cost?
Ultimately, the cost of mediation is in direct proportion to the cooperation of the two parties. In economic mediation ordered by the court, the 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 the 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 really all depends on the attitudes and approach of each party.
What Happens During Mediation?
Basically, a mediation will follow these steps:
- The mediator will explain the mediation process and goals to each of the participants.
- The participants will each explain what issues they see as needing resolution and how they’d like to see each resolved.
- The mediator will encourage the two parties to discuss their proposals to understand where the “sticking points” are.
- The parties may also meet privately, called “caucusing,” with the mediator to express their concerns.
- The two parties will then begin negotiating with the mediator’s involvement until an agreement is reached.
- Once the two parties reach an agreement, then the mediator will prepare a Memorandum of Understanding.
Mediation Is an Amicable 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 reach a more favorable outcome for everyone involved.
“As a child of divorce and divorced mother of twins, I’m passionate about helping others resolve their family issues efficiently and amicably,” Ms. Weinroth says.
Why Choose Smedley Law Group
At Smedley Law Group, we prioritize building strong client relationships by providing personalized guidance, prompt communication, and unwavering support to our clients throughout the legal process. Our collaborative team approach ensures that every client receives the full effort of our knowledgeable staff, enabling quick responses and comprehensive assistance. With decades of experience, a specialized practice area, and a commitment to practical solutions, we navigate complex family law matters efficiently and effectively. Clients trust us because we genuinely care about their well-being and offer a human-centered approach that sets us apart from other firms. With Smedley Law Group, our clients can expect white-glove service that goes beyond basic advocacy and provides assurance that their case is of utmost importance to our team.
Contact the Experienced Mediation Family Lawyers at Smedley Law Group in West Deptford, NJ Today for Help With Mediation
If you’re thinking about 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’ll 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.