The start of the New Year is the most popular time for couples to initiate a divorce, and one of the most common questions that divorcing spouses have is “can we mediate our divorce?”. Because every family dynamic is unique, it is easy to get the idea that a process like mediation, which has worked extremely well for so many other couples, cannot work for their particular case.
Maybe the concern is that you and your spouse do not agree on everything, even some of the bigger issues. Or maybe it is worse than that, perhaps your relationship with your spouse is fairly contentious and you are prone to arguments. Maybe you are a couple with substantial assets, and you assume that there is no way you could settle everything without lawyers battling it out or perhaps ultimately going to trial.
Whatever your specific situation, whether you have relatively few assets and no kids or significant and complex assets and children from both your current marriage and previous relationships, chances are good that you can mediate your divorce. In fact, the only time that a couple absolutely cannot mediate is when there is a restraining order or abuse involved.
Most couples do not fall into this category. For most divorcing spouses, although their relationship may be far from perfect, this does not mean they cannot successfully utilize divorce mediation.
The Role of the Mediator in the Divorce Mediation Process
The majority of couples can mediate their divorce as long as they understand that it is a process of working together under the guidance of a professional third-party mediator. The job of the mediator is to educate and assist the spouses in coming to an agreement on all matters related to their divorce, which may include:
- Child Custody: For couples who have children, one of the first issues that they usually think about is which spouse will have custody of the kids. The state generally favors custody arrangements in which the child can maintain a relationship with both parents, but what does that look like? A mediator can spend the time necessary with the couple to come up with a custody agreement that works best for their specific circumstances, rather than having a “cookie-cutter” arrangement imposed by the court that neither spouse is happy with.
- Parenting Time Schedules: After determining who receives custody of the children, or if the couple decides that joint custody is the best arrangement, parenting time schedules will need to be worked out. The mediator will work closely with the parents to come up with a schedule that works well for everyone.
- Child Support: New Jersey and other states have specific child support guidelines. The mediator will help the couple understand the basis and structure of these guidelines, and how they apply to their situation. Parties decide whether or not they want to apply the state specific child support guidelines in mediation. In cases involving higher-earning parents where the amount of child support may exceed state guidelines, mediation provides a forum in which the parents can create a fair child support plan to best fit the needs of their children.
- Spousal Support: Alimony/spousal support may be appropriate in some cases, depending on the length of the marriage, the standard of living the couple enjoyed while married, the relative income of each spouse, and other relevant factors. The mediator will work closely with the spouses to help them determine whether spousal support should be paid and the details of this arrangement.
- Equitable Distribution: New Jersey and most other states are “equitable distribution” states, meaning that marital property is to be divided “fairly and equitably”, but not necessarily 50/50. The mediator will help the couple determine which assets are part of the marital estate and how these assets should be divided based on their unique circumstances. When a couple chooses mediation, it allows them to get more creative with the division of assets and develop “out-of-the-box” resolutions that would be far more difficult to achieve by going the traditional route.
The bottom line is that the mediator is well-equipped to handle divorces of all levels of complexity. It doesn’t matter how long a couple has been married, whether it was just for a year or two or for several decades or somewhere in between, how many kids they have, or their financial status.
When there are complicated issues such as businesses, commercial real estate, and unique assets, third-party experts can be brought in to deal with these specific areas. This is also true of divorces with special needs children, for example, where parenting schedules may need to be altered and other modifications may be needed to accommodate the specifics of the situation.
Whatever issues are involved, couples that mediate their divorce usually complete the process in a fraction of the time that it takes to go through the courts. Court schedules can drag on for several months, while mediation sessions can be scheduled whenever is convenient for participants. Couples can also incorporate the use of attorneys in the mediation process if desired.
Why High Net-Worth Couples Often Choose Divorce Mediation
Many couples with significant assets have a hard time believing that they can successfully mediate their divorce. Some believe that their situation is far too complicated, or they just think that they need to have a lawyer to negotiate a fair settlement for them.
The reality is that mediation can be especially beneficial for high-asset couples because it provides two things that couples in this category highly value: control and privacy. With mediation, no settlement can become binding unless both spouses agree to it. This means that the spouses are ultimately in control of how their assets are divided and other aspects of the divorce, rather than a court that knows very little about their situation.
Mediation is also a confidential process that does not become part of the public court record. This means that spouses can speak more freely during their sessions knowing that there are no transcripts that will be published later on. They can also be assured that their assets and other details of their divorce will not be made public. This is especially reassuring for couples that have a high profile.
You Can Mediate Your Divorce with Advanced Mediation Solutions
If you are considering getting divorced this year, Advanced Mediation Solutions (AMS) is here to help. Over the years, we have successfully mediated countless divorces for couples that have faced many different types of unique challenges, and it is highly likely that we can do the same for you.
To find out more about our divorce mediation services, call us today at (856) 669-7172 or send us an online message. We look forward to serving you!