New Jersey Marriage Dissolution and Divorce Alternative Dispute Resolution
New Jersey marriage dissolution cases can be complex, contentious, frustrating, and expensive. What many people contemplating divorce do not fully realize is that there is an alternative available to a parting couple beyond following the direct pace and procedures of the judicial system. A couple seeking to end their marriage in the Garden State can take advantage of what is known as divorce alternative dispute resolution.What is Divorce Alternative Dispute Resolution?
Alternative dispute resolution, also known as ADR, is an “extrajudicial” process designed to resolve disputes between parties in different situations, including divorce proceedings. ADR permits parties the ability to resolve a particular dispute without utilizing certain judicial proceedings like a trial.
The two most common types of ADR processes are arbitration and mediation. Mediation is the ADR process most often used in divorce cases, although arbitration technically is a possibility.
Mediation is the form of ADR in which an impartial mediator assists a divorcing couple in reaching agreement on issues in a case. A mediator does not make decisions but rather facilitates a process by which parties to a divorce reach agreement on issues that can include:
- Property division
- Child custody and parenting time
- Child support
- Disposition of marital residence
- Other matters at issue in a particular case
The first step in the divorce ADR or divorce mediation process is the agreement of the parties to take this course. As an aside, a court can order a couple of mediation in a divorce case. However, even when a court orders mediation, a couple must be willing to participate in the process or this type of ADR will not work.
The parties then enter into an agreement to mediate. This agreement establishes the general parameters associated with the mediation.
A mediation session is then scheduled at a time agreeable to the parties and the mediator. During the mediation session itself, the parties are able to stake out their position on the issue or issues being mediated. More than one mediation session may occur in a particular case.
A mediator is not able to provide legal advice. Rather, a mediator establishes an environment designed to facilitate meaningful negotiation between the parties in order to reach a consensus and resolution of the issue or issues at hand.
If the parties are able to resolve matters during mediation, the mediator prepares a mediation agreement which sets forth the agreement of the couple. The parties sign the agreement as is the case with any type of contract.
The mediation agreement is then submitted to the judge presiding in a divorce case. The court reviews the agreement to ensure it is legally appropriate and otherwise fair and equitable. If approved by the judge, a mediation agreement becomes part of the final order of the court or divorce decree.Who Pays for Divorce Mediation?
A number of different alternatives exist for determining who will pay for mediation in a New Jersey marriage dissolution case:
- A couple may split the costs of mediation between them
- A party to a divorce may voluntarily agree to pay the costs for mediation
- Paying the costs associated with mediation may be determined by a judge
A number of important benefits can be derived from taking advantage of ADR during divorce proceedings. These include:
- Speeding up the marriage dissolution process
- Reducing the costs and expenses associated with a divorce case
- Lowering tensions and emotions between a divorcing couple
- Giving parties more control over the resolution of issues
- Providing “practice” for issue resolution going forward after a divorce, particular in a situation in which children need to be co-parented following the end of a marriage
Taking advantage of the benefits associated with divorce alternative dispute resolution is one avenue to take to make your marriage dissolution case at least somewhat more manageable. Even if you are considering ADR, you cannot overlook the vital importance of retaining the services of an experienced New Jersey divorce lawyer, like a member of the legal team at the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen. You can schedule a case evaluation and consultation by calling our offices at 201-845-7400.