Divorce can conjure images of spouses bitterly engaged in court room battles in front of a scowling judge and beside spatting attorneys. Litigation, regardless of the level of acrimony, can be a necessary part of the divorce process. If one or both parties takes unreasonable or insupportable positions on an issue, resolution will likely require judicial intervention. Moreover, in unique circumstances, even two reasonable parties may be unable to reconcile a gap between conflicting positions.
While litigation can, at times, not be avoided, alternative forms of dispute resolution often provide a more efficient, less expensive and less emotionally draining means of resolving support, custody, equitable distribution and all other issues arising in the course of a divorce. Mediation is one such method of alternative dispute resolution. Mediation can afford parties a forum conducive to creative, efficient solutions while avoiding protracted litigation that can be costly in time, expense, and emotion.
Mediation is a process wherein the parties retain a neutral third party to assist the parties in reaching resolution, whether it be on a specific issue or an entire divorce. The mediator is most often an experienced matrimonial attorney or retired family law judge. Parties may elect to attend mediation without attorneys. This is more frequently seen with issues of less complexity (e.g. division of personal property or pickups and drop offs for parenting time). Regarding complex matters, it is usually advisable that parties participate in mediation accompanied by their attorney.
As a neutral settlement facilitator, a mediator is a valuable source of objective guidance for both parties. Moreover, mediators can often recommend resolutions to a case that a judge could not order under New Jersey law. For example, a judge cannot order a buyout of an alimony obligation, wherein one party pays a single, lump sum payment to the other party, in lieu of periodic and extended alimony payments. However, the parties can agree upon this type of arrangement, and a mediator can assist the parties in determining a fair buyout amount. The mediator can also assist the parties in reaching outside-of-the box resolutions concerning parenting time, equitable distribution and other issues in dispute.
Mediation is a confidential process and is not binding. If one party makes an offer in mediation, which is rejected by the other party, the offer cannot be disclosed or held against the offering party if the case proceeds to litigation. The purpose of mediation is to facilitate a candid conversation between the parties toward the goal of resolving the case or dispute.
Whether contemplating divorce, just commencing the divorce process or going through the litigation process, discuss with your attorney the possibility of mediation and the potential benefits it may have for you based on the specific facts of your case.
Megan S. Murray, Esq is a distinguished Family Law Attorney in Monmouth County NJ that was selected as a “Best Lawyer in America,” ranking her in the top 5% of practitioners in the nation. Ms. Murray has been recognized on various occasions for excellence in the practice of family law. Ms. Murray also serves as an Officer of the Family Law Section of the NJ State Bar Association, in addition to leading her own successful practice out of Hazlet, NJ. Learn more about Ms. Murray: https://www.murrayfamilylaw.com/megan-s-murray-esq/