New Jersey Family Law Mediation
Mediation is one of several Complementary Dispute Resolution Programs governed by New Jersey Court Rule 1:40. This Court Rule is set forth in its entirety on our Judiciary’s website (www.judiciary.state.nj.us).
The mediation process enables the parties in a family law matter to resolve their issues in a structured manner with the assistance of a neutral and impartial mediator. The parties will meet together with the mediator and work towards an amicable resolution of all issues pertaining to their divorce, civil union or custody matter. In some instances, counsel for the parties may also participate in the process. Mediation provides an excellent opportunity to settle all issues including custody, parenting time, child support, alimony, equitable distribution of all assets/liabilities and counsel fees. A successful mediation eliminates the substantial emotional and financial costs of a family law matter that is litigated in the courts. If an agreement is reached, the parties are directed to review the agreement with independent counsel.
Advantages of Mediation:
- Mediation can save time, the enormous expense of litigation and substantially mitigate the emotional costs of a litigated matter. The mediation process eliminates the formality of litigation in the New Jersey Family Part where parties can spend a year or several years in litigation with Case Management Conferences, formal discovery, Early Settlement Panels, Intensive Settlement Conferences, Pre-Trial Conferences and Trial.
- Mediation is a fair and neutral process where the mediator has no personal interest in the outcome beyond assisting the parties in reaching an amicable settlement. The experienced mediator can assist the parties in minimizing the “emotions” and find creative solutions to the issues in dispute.
- Mediation takes place in the confidential setting of the mediator’s office. The parties do not have to endure the uncomfortable experience of frequent appearances at a County Courthouse where Sheriff’s Officers monitor every action, a court report records every statement and parties are consumed with the anxiety of a court proceeding and the lack of privacy. At mediation, any notes taken by the mediator are discarded at the conclusion of mediation and the parties’ personal lives do not become part of a public record.
- Do the parties require an attorney to schedule and attend mediation? No. There is no requirement that the parties retain counsel to schedule or attend mediation. The mediator’s goal is to assist the parties in reaching their own settlement agreement and the mediator will not represent either party in Court. At the conclusion of a successful mediation, the mediator will generally draft a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) or Term Sheet outlining the issues in dispute and purported agreement as to each issue. Both parties will then be advised by the mediator of his or her own right to consult with independent counsel to review the tentative agreement. Neither party, however, is bound to review independent counsel and may voluntarily waive his or her right to counsel.
- How much does mediation cost? Mediators usually charge by their hourly rate and the fees are generally shared by the couple or advanced from a marital asset. The mediator will provide the parties will a retainer agreement prior to or at the conclusion of the initial mediation session.
- Do the parties have to sit in the same room together at mediation? No. This is not a requirement but is typically handled pursuant to the discretion and style of the mediator. If the parties absolutely refuse to sit together or it becomes counterproductive to the mediation process, an effective tool is for the mediator to “caucus”. This is a common term for meeting separately with the parties in different rooms.