In New Jersey, couples are encouraged to work out a divorce agreement without court intervention, which is often costly and time-consuming. There are two litigation alternatives available for divorcing couples: divorce mediation and collaborative divorce. The majority of divorces are resolved through mediation, but collaborative divorce has been gaining in popularity within the past few years. While both methods share numerous similarities, there are some key differences that you'll need to consider in order to decide what's right for you.
Divorce mediation is a good option for couples who are able to put aside their differences long enough to hash out an agreement. The process requires that you meet for a series of negotiation meetings, so this is not an option for couples who are banned from seeing each other through a restraining order. It's also not recommended for spouses who are divorcing over contentious grounds such as adultery or extreme cruelty. This doesn't mean you have to agree on everything; but you should be able to have an exchange of ideas without shouting or fighting. You will have help in the form of a certified mediator, who will facilitate communication and help you work through disagreements by clarifying the laws and proposing alternative arrangements. While lawyers are not required, you are encouraged to have one since the mediator cannot offer legal advice to either party.
If you and your spouse are still good friends who have simply fallen out of love, you may want to consider collaborative divorce. This method requires spouses to meet only with their attorneys, who will work out a divorce agreement through a series of private meetings. Spouses interact directly with each other through the entire process, while consulting their attorneys to ensure that certain terms are in their best interest. The lawyers are not there to fight for their clients as they would in court; the goal here is to divide the assets and responsibilities as fairly as possible, so that both spouses can move on with their lives.
This method may sound ideal for couples who want to remain friends, especially for the sake of their children, but it's really not feasible unless you're in complete agreement on all the important issues. Collaborative divorce also requires that both parties agree not to pursue litigation, which is not a requirement in mediation. If you decide to take your issues to court, you will need to seek a new attorney from an entirely different firm, which basically means you'll be starting from scratch.
As you can see, choosing the right divorce method requires a lot of thought and research. For more guidance, please consider speaking with Vincent C. DeLuca of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. In addition to being a family law attorney with over two decades of trial experience, Mr. DeLuca is a certified mediator, collaborative divorce attorney and matrimonial law attorney. He will be happy to help you explore all your available divorce options during a free initial consultation.