A few weeks ago, while discussing divorce options with a woman in my office, I realized many people truly do not understand how private mediation is used in divorce cases.
Mediation is defined as “a means of resolving differences with the help of a trained, impartial third party. The parties, with or without lawyers, are brought together by the mediator in a neutral setting. A mediator does not represent either side and does not offer legal advice. Parties are encouraged to retain an attorney to advise them of their rights during the mediation process. The mediator helps the parties identify the issues, gather the information they need to make informed decisions, and communicate so that they can find a solution agreeable to both. Mediation is designed to facilitate settlements in an informal, non-adversarial manner.”
So what does this really mean for parties who want a divorce? They can jointly select a private mediator, meet with him or her and mediate all the issues of their marriage, before filing a Complaint for Divorce. These issues can include alimony, custody, parenting time, child support, college costs, assets, debts, liabilities, etc., all the issues of the marriage. Many divorcing spouses do not realize that they can mediate first. They can first have an agreement resolving all the issues of the marriage and then file for an uncontested Divorce. The time it then takes to obtain the actual Divorce is weeks, not a year or more. In addition, the cost to mediate is far less. Statistically, post divorce litigation is significantly lower in mediated cases.
Mediation is a joint effort; both parties must agree to participate. Mediators facilitate communication so that each party is given the opportunity to be heard. Because the setting is non-adversarial, emotions are defused and the parties can focus on the real issues. The parties speak for themselves, can air their differences and create innovative decisions regarding the outcome.
The only requirements for success in mediation are that both parties have the desire to cooperate, are willing to participate fully in the process, and wish to achieve an agreement. In mediation, the parties are in the driver’s seat of their divorce.
Catherine F. Riordan is an attorney specializing in family law matters and practicing law for over ten years. Ms. Riordan is a family law mediator approved by the Supreme Court of the State of New Jersey. She is partner at Veres & Riordan, LLC in Denville, NJ.
 This constitutes the “descriptive material” referenced in Rule 5:4-2(h) that each divorce litigant must receive and certify as having received (using certification forms).