- April 25, 2023
File Under: Mediation
How to Select a Divorce Mediator
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New Jersey recently made the stunning decision to suspend most civil and divorce trials due to judicial seat vacancies and in order to prioritize criminal cases. That announcement has left many estranged couples in the state wondering if they can still get divorced. The good news according to New Jersey divorce attorneys is that you can indeed still end your marriage through alternative processes, such as divorce mediation.
What is Divorce Mediation?
Many New Jersey divorces go through mediation prior to being finalized, and family lawyers encourage this approach whenever possible as it allows the couple to retain control while also minimizing stress and emotional trauma not only for them but their children if applicable. Mediation is an alternative to litigation in which the couple is guided through the divorce process by a neutral and impartial third party. They work together as a team to achieve an amicable agreement that is practical and mutually beneficial.
Why You Should Consider Divorce Mediation
Family law attorneys encourage divorce mediation because it is a cost- and time-effective approach through which the couple retains control. You will likely have to make concessions to your spouse in order to achieve an agreement, but you will make those decisions as opposed to them being imposed upon you by an arbitrator or judge. Mediation is less formal than divorce arbitration or litigation. It protects your privacy and confidentiality, and it allows you to shield your children from the process.
To select a mediator, talk with family members, friends and respected associates who have gone through divorce mediation and have been satisfied with the results. Search for a reputable mediator, If you are currently attending couples and/or individual divorce counseling, you can ask your therapist, counselor or divorce coach as well.
If you have a divorce lawyer who represents you specifically, you can ask them. If you need additional referrals, reputable sources include your:
- Local courthouse
- Court administration office
- State or county bar association
Does the Mediator Make You Comfortable?
Family lawyers encourage their clients to choose a divorce mediator who makes them feel comfortable. Even if a mediator makes you uneasy for a reason you cannot quite put your finger on, that will affect the entire process. Ideally, you should respect the mediator, understand and agree with their philosophy and approach, and have confidence that this is the person who is going to lead you through the process and help you come to an agreement.
Background and Experience
Some training is required to be a mediator, but in the case of divorce mediation, this requirement is fulfilled by a 40-hour course. Therefore, experts strongly encourage you to vet any mediator you consider in order to know what their background and experience is. Among the reasons you want to look to your local courthouse and bar association for recommendations is that they have higher standards. Court-approved divorce mediators must either be a licensed divorce attorney or a licensed professional with experience in select fields, including:
- Psychology or psychiatry
- Social work
- Allied mental health
- Finance or accounting
Does Your Mediator Have Knowledge Specific to Your Divorce?
The typical divorce case does not require any specific knowledge, but yours may. Perhaps your divorce involves adoption or one of the spouses not being a citizen of the United States. Maybe you are dealing with a complex stock scenario that won’t resolve for five years or more. In these scenarios, it can be helpful to have a mediator who has prior experience in similar circumstances. In the case of stocks and other investments, your mediator may be a lawyer and not a financial advisor, but you will want to know how they will tackle this challenge and the relevant other professionals they might rely on.
Fees and Services Included
Ask about the mediation fees up front. Does the mediator charge a flat rate or by the hour? Determine which services are included. In the case of a flat rate and services that are quoted up front, ask the mediator if that price can be adjusted after the fact and, if so, on what basis.
Advantages of Choosing a Mediator Who is Also a Lawyer
Unless you have a specific reason to target another profession, experts advise choosing a mediator who is also a divorce lawyer. Even if there are challenging aspects of your divorce beyond divorce law, your mediator can involve other professionals, such as a financial advisor, as needed. A lawyer will be best suited to navigate New Jersey divorce law. In addition, your mediator will be able to prepare your divorce agreement and other official documentation without external assistance.
A Mediator is Not There to Provide You Legal Advice
Even though your divorce mediator may also be a divorce lawyer, it is important to understand that your mediator neither represents you nor your spouse and is not there to provide you legal advice. The responsibility of the mediator is to guide you both through the process and help you achieve an amicable agreement. If you do want legal advice, it is recommended that each spouse have their own family law attorney who can provide guidance specific to them.
Choosing a Mediator With Your Spouse
Be mindful that selecting a divorce mediator is a choice that you will make as a couple. You both need to agree. If you are having difficulty coming to agreement, then an effective strategy is to give one spouse the responsibility of creating a list of suitable candidates and the other spouse the responsibility of making the final choice from that approved list.
A Divorce Mediator Who Will Work for You
If you want to end your marriage with a minimum of conflict and are thinking about divorce mediation, Lawrence Law encourages you to consider our law firm. We are a team of New Jersey family law attorneys, and all of us are experienced divorce mediators. We have offices in Red Bank in Monmouth County and in Watchung in Somerset County. Call us at 908-645-1000 or fill out and submit the contact form on our website.