The New Jersey Court Rules require that parties to a divorce be advised of the option to use mediation to resolve their divorce. Mediation can be done with both parties acting pro se or being unrepresented by counsel with the mediator assisting the participants to discuss their concerns and arrive at an agreement. Divorcing couples can use the mediator prior to filing the divorce complaint. The mediator does not represent either party. The attorney acting as a mediator conducts a cooperative process to help the couple together make an agreement on the issues of the case – custody, support, and property. Mediation is a system to streamline resolving these important issues. It is not a mediator’s job to legally protect the parties or give direct legal advice.
Some benefits of mediation are that the discussions are private and the couple can participate directly with each other about the issues facing them. The mediator attorney provides expert guidance on the legal issues and helps the parties reach a final divorce agreement which is legally sound.
The attorney who is the mediator cannot file the divorce complaint or appear for the final judgment. Each party is advised to obtain his/her own attorney to review the settlement agreement to prepare the pleadings for divorce and to appear in Court for the final judgment. However, the case matter which is often the basis for most of the litigation is already done (the Property Settlement Agreement).
Mediation can be a less expensive alternative, faster, and very successful. If the parties have been able to share and express their common goals and interests, there can be success with the couple adhering to their agreement for the post-divorce relationship. If there is a final restraining order, the case cannot be mediated.
The Property Settlement Agreement normally contains provisions for custody, parenting time, support, division of property, medical and insurance coverage. Each family has unique issues which become part of the Property Settlement Agreement.
Tanya N. Helfand, Esq. concentrates in Family Law, she is a Certified Matrimonial Attorney and mediator. The firm welcomes your questions and inquiries at [email protected] Everything is confidential. This article is not legal advice. Please consult an attorney.