While most couples wish to avoid the stress and cost associated with divorce litigation, out-of-court alternatives such as collaborative divorce may not be an option depending on their circumstances. However, the family courts do encourage couples to resolve their divorce through less contentious methods whenever possible. First and foremost, it's in the best interest of the couple and their children to come to an agreement without a lengthy, drawn- out court battle. Second, divorce trials require a great deal of judicial resources, which the courts could save by having you resolve your divorce privately. Currently, New Jersey courts have the option of mandating mediation for couples who cannot agree on economic issues, or on issues pertaining to child custody/ parenting time. With child custody disputes, the court orders mediation as the first step after the filing of the divorce complaint. The couple is ordered to meet with a court-appointed mediator without their lawyers in order to reach an amicable resolution. On the other hand, economic mediation is only ordered when financial issues in a case cannot be resolved through the Early Assessment Panel. In this case, the couple will be assigned a date to meet with a state certified economic mediator. The list of certified economic mediation for both Monmouth County and Ocean County, New Jersey.
While both forms of mediation seek to guide the couple towards a fair resolution, there are some key differences. For example, court mandated child custody mediation is free of charge, while economic mediation is only free for the first two hours. If you choose to continue with economic mediation past the initial two hours, you and your spouse will be billed separately according to the mediator's hourly rate. Economic mediation also requires that you submit a copy of their Case Information Statement (CIS), which contains extensive information about your family's finances. This information includes sources of employment, shelter expenses and all personal expenses, such as groceries, day care and health insurance. However, aside to these procedural differences, the overall process of mediation is the same in both cases. The mediator is a disinterested third party, who is there to facilitate communication and offer ideas, but not legal advice. You will be reminded that the session is completely confidential and non-binding, meaning either of you can choose to quit the process at any time. If the couple successfully comes to an agreement, the mediator will send an outline of the terms and provisions to the spouse's attorneys. The attorneys will work together to formulate a Consent Order, which will then be signed by you and your former spouse, the attorneys and the judge. Once the order is signed by the judge, it becomes fully enforceable although either spouse can petition for post- divorce modifications if their circumstances change in the future.
It's important to note that a couple can enter into mediation at any time— even before filing the divorce complaint. Attempting private mediation as early as possible can save you significant time and money, and make things as painless as possible for your children. However, mediation only works for couples who are willing to be negotiate, and are not legally required to stay apart due to circumstances such as domestic abuse. If you have questions about the divorce mediation process in New Jersey, please speak with Partner Vincent C. DeLuca, Esq. of Villani & DeLuca. In addition to being an economic mediator, Mr. DeLuca is one of less than 1% of all attorneys in the state to be certified as a Matrimonial Attorney by the Supreme Court of New Jersey. Please call (732) 965-3404 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation!