When a family engages in divorce or custody proceedings, it can be a particularly harrowing experience. The complications that stem from the law can cause a great deal of stress for all parties. One strategy for the negotiation and resolution of any Family Law case is the use of mediation. Mediation is a court-supervised process where two parties attempt to resolve a dispute regarding property division, custody, and even support orders. Typically, mediation requires both parties to attend a session hosted by an outside, third-party mediator, who will attempt to hear arguments on both sides, and ensure that both parties feel that their arguments are heard. The overall goal of mediation is to attempt to reach a settlement between the two parties and reduce the degree of emotional stress caused by the legal process.
Mediation In New Jersey
Mediation is a necessary step in many Family Law proceedings in New Jersey. Before a case can reach the courtroom, the court will necessitate a mediation session to try to resolve the issue. Mediation sessions are available through the county court that the divorce or custody order is being filed in. Also, residents in New Jersey can contact a mediator of their own preference instead of having the court assign one. Mediation is done through several sessions, with each session building on issues discussed at the prior session. At the end of the mediation process, a settlement will be drafted and sent along to the court for the approval of a judge. Mediators must be approved by the State of New Jersey, and attend a rigorous training program in order to qualify.
When a divorce case enters the mediation phase, it is typically done with the intent to resolve all issues that pertain to the divorce. This includes custody, property division, child support, and alimony. The overall process of a divorce mediation can take up to 5 sessions, or even longer. When working through a divorce case, the mediator will try to ensure that all parties are able to voice their concerns, while simultaneously attempting to maintain an objective and neutral environment. This can help both sides attempt to reach a fair settlement for their divorce before the case can make it to court. At times, the mediator may suggest alternatives to divorce, such as counseling, if they feel it may be best, however, the overall intent is to settle or resolve the issues of the divorce without needing to enter the courtroom. Divorce mediation can become very emotional and sometimes hostile, especially if the spouses hold any resentment or if there is any history of violence between them. The mediator should be notified of these matters and will attempt to accommodate the needs of both parties.
Like divorce, issues of custody can be resolved through mediation as well. Through mediation, all issues of custody will be discussed. This includes child support, visitation, and scheduling of custodial time. New Jersey courts will typically require mediation for all custody issues prior to engaging with them in the courtroom. Custody mediation will typically have fewer issues to cover than a full divorce mediation, and may not last as many sessions. After the process has finished, the mediator will suggest a custody agreement and both parties may either bring it to the court for finalization or refuse the settlement and pursue the custody case in court. Prior to a mediation session, the parents of the child may be asked to draft their own ideal custody orders, so that the mediator may attempt to bring the two parents into agreement.
Support agreements, such as alimony and child support, can become particularly heated arguments between spouses or parents. As these matters directly pertain to a person's finances, these discussions have a tendency to evoke a lot of stress between the parties involved. Through mediation, these orders can be discussed in a way that maintains fairness and adherence to New Jersey's own alimony and support guidelines. The mediator will attempt to focus on keeping these support items as objective as possible and provide potential agreements at the end of the session.
Can I Involve My Attorney in Mediation?
Mediation is typically a discussion strictly between the parties involved in the matter at hand, with the mediator supervising. Because of this, attorneys may not be permitted into the discussions themselves. However, the importance of having the counsel of an attorney should not be underestimated. Even if the matter can be resolved through a mediation session, an attorney can help protect your interests in the matter outside of the mediation room. Prior to a session, you and your attorney can discuss key points to highlight in the session, and what to bring up during your time to speak. On top of this, the sooner an attorney is involved, the better. An attorney handling your case from the start will know the facts of your case, along with any potential difficulties that may come up in court.
While mediation can help resolve issues, when it fails, it may make an already difficult situation even worse. If the spouses or parents are unable to work through mediation, the matter must go to the courtroom for a full resolution. If you or a loved on is involved in matters of Family Law, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.