Going to court for a contested hearing can be a stressful occurrence. This is especially true during a divorce, as the subject matter of the court’s ruling will impact your life for years or even decades. Your family law attorney will assist you in making the proper arguments and organizing your evidence, but a contested hearing is unpredictable. One way to avoid a final hearing is to settle in mediation.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a form of what is called “alternative dispute resolution.” Mediation means that you and your soon-to-be-former spouse come together with your respective attorneys and talk about the case to a neutral third party called a mediator. The point of mediation is not that the mediator is going to make a ruling or force you to agree with your spouse; a mediator’s role is to help facilitate communication to help the two of you arrive at an agreement.
How Does Mediation Work?
During mediation, you and your divorce attorney will have the chance to present a basic outline of your requests and your evidence to the mediator. Your spouse and his or her attorney will have the same opportunity. You and your attorney will likely then sit in one room while your spouse and his or her attorney sits in another. The mediator will then shuttle back and forth between the two rooms, attempting to help you and your spouse find a middle ground and reach a settlement.
In mediation, the goal is to reach an agreement on as many issues as possible. You and your spouse can reach a settlement on some or all of the issues in your divorce. These issues can include child support, child custody, spousal maintenance, property division, or any other issue that you would have to argue to the judge if you had a contested hearing.
What Are the Benefits of Mediation?
Mediation has a wide range of benefits. One of these benefits is that you avoid the time and expense involved in a final hearing. A final divorce hearing means that you will have to pay your divorce attorney to prepare for a trial. In addition, a final hearing means waiting for the court to have time on its docket to hear your matter, which could mean waiting for months.
Another major benefit of mediation is control. With mediation, you and your spouse can craft tailor-made solutions for your family. With a contested hearing, you cannot predict exactly what the judge will decide.
Mediation also allows the participants a high degree of privacy. Divorce proceedings are public record. Almost anyone can walk into the court and obtain copies of certain divorce pleadings or even sit in the courtroom to watch your trial. Mediation is a completely closed process, meaning not only can the public not watch what happens, but what does happen at mediation is confidential. A mediator cannot even be called as a witness at your divorce trial by your divorce attorney.
Is Mediation Required?
In most cases, mediation is a required part of the divorce process. New Jersey law requires that before going to a final hearing, the parties to a divorce must attend mediation and at least make a good faith effort to settle their issues. Note that you are not required to actually settle.
There is a very important exception to this rule, however. New Jersey law provides that if there is a preliminary or final order of domestic violence entered to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, the matter shall not be referred to mediation. Moreover, the mediator may petition the court to remove the case from mediation for good cause, even when there is no final order of domestic violence.
We have helped many clients navigate mediation. If you have any questions about how we can serve you as your family law attorney in your case, contact us today.
Are you interested in seeking an annulment? If so, contact Williams Law Group, LLC right away. Our family law attorneys will review your case to determine if an annulment is an option. If it is, we will guide you through the process and ensure you make the best decisions for your future. Call our office at (908) 738-8512, email us at[email protected], or contact us through our confidential online form to schedule a consultation
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