According to some sources, nearly half of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. Mediation results in a positive resolution in as many as 80% of all cases. Many divorce lawyers recommend mediation if possible because there are many advantages to this approach, including saving time and money.
Divorce mediation is the most popular way to achieve an amicable divorce in the U.S. In many cases, the process is handled by a divorce attorney who does not represent either spouse but rather serves as a neutral party. A successful divorce that is not litigated involves a negotiation to reach an agreement. The mediator is tasked with facilitating the discussions between the couple. That involves planning out the discussion based on the unique needs of the couple but also helping them make compromises that allow them to reach an agreement. Once one is reached, the mediator will prepare a memorandum of understanding. This is not binding until reviewed by an attorney and the attorney converts it into a marital settlement agreement. Once the settlement agreement is signed, the case is considered settled and the parties proceed to an uncontested divorce. If the judge finds that the parties believe the agreement to be fair and equitable, they will issue a final judgment of divorce.
While some couples are able to navigate their divorces amicably on their own, most will benefit greatly from having their negotiations mediated by a family lawyer. One reason is that the lawyer can help ensure that the parties believe that the agreement is fair, and therefore likely to be approved by a judge, but there are many other reasons as well.
Among people who are wary of divorce mediation, there is a prevalent misconception that they will not have their own divorce attorney and that there will be no one to protect their individual interests and rights. The mediator represents neither you nor your spouse. In addition, not only are you permitted to have a consulting attorney whose job it is to protect and advocate for you, but it is also recommended by most professionals.
Even if you and your spouse have maintained a positive and productive relationship and intend to finalize the divorce as amicably as possible, conflicts are likely inevitable. It is probable that your list of wants will overlap with the list your spouse has created. In that case, you will not get everything you want and will have to make compromises to reach an agreement. Often, just having a family lawyer acting as the mediator is enough to avoid these disagreements from becoming contentious. Also, having a neutral third party can make it much easier to make the concessions that need to be made.
Most mental health professionals agree that divorce is among the most stressful ordeals that someone will ever have to experience. The core concept of divorce mediation is friendly cooperation, and that alone can reduce the stress. People are much less likely to enter mediation in a defensive mindset, and working toward something in a productive manner helps with stress as well.
Mediation not only reduces stress for you and your spouse but for the entire family as well as close friends. The positive effect it can have on your children is particularly notable. Divorce can be difficult on children. Even when you feel like you are doing everything right, children may find themselves feeling guilty or as if they have to choose one side or the other. Mediation allows the entire family to go through this peaceful process together. The children never have to appear in court or testify when cases are settled, and that alone makes mediation the best option for couples with kids.
The amount of time saved is one of the greatest advantages of divorce mediation from a practical perspective. On average, litigated divorces take a minimum of nine months and as much as two years. The average divorce mediation takes between two to four months. Just consider the difference between being able to begin moving on with your life in as little as eight weeks compared to having to deal with this ongoing process that could shape your life for a couple of years.
Divorce mediation is significantly less expensive than other forms of ending a marriage. Time is certainly a factor. Your divorce lawyer’s fees over two years will be considerably more than over two months, but there are other factors as well. One is that you and your spouse get to share in the overhead of your divorce rather than bear the full cost of your individual case. Another is that mediation simply eliminates a lot of the proceedings and documentation required for a traditional divorce. Consider that the average cost of divorce mediation is between $3,000 and $5,000 whereas the average cost of divorce litigation is between $15,000 and $75,000.
Divorce litigation adheres to standard protocols dictated by the laws in your state, and it generally is not possible to alter those procedures to the individual couple. You also sacrifice control, and the judge has the power to force you to sell real estate, for instance, which may be something that neither of you want to do. With mediation, you can shape the entire process to the particular needs of you and your family.
In New Jersey as well as in many other states, divorce documents are generally public record, and while some details will be redacted, there is still a lot of information about you and about your spouse available to anyone who may want it. When you mediate your divorce, the only record will be the actual divorce agreement and the decree itself. You can control your information, and you also do not have to sit in court where anyone can come in and listen to you and your spouse air your dirty laundry.
Another reason many family law attorneys recommend mediation is that it may eliminate the possibility of any court battles down the line. Once you and your spouse have made the agreement and a judge has taken testimony about it, the agreement cannot be changed unless there was fraud or a serious mistake or one of the parties agreed under duress. This is not the case with litigated divorces. If a spouse is unsatisfied with the outcome, that person can file for legal appeals and modifications for many reasons. Generally speaking, when a party agrees to the terms of the divorce, they are more likely to abide by them as opposed to a judge forcing them to do so.
Mediation helps married couples seeking a divorce reach an amicable agreement without a court battle. Divorce mediation is also quicker and less expensive than other divorce methods, and Lawrence Law has a wealth of experience helping people reach settlement agreements. If you would like to learn more about the process or are ready to set up a consultation with a New Jersey family law attorney, we have offices in Watchung and Red Bank, and you can call us at 908-645-1000 or contact us online.
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