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One of the trends we are seeing lately at AMS is couples who are looking to get divorced after several years of living separately. Many of these separations no doubt occurred during the Covid pandemic when most of society was shut down including the courts. Instead of filing for divorce, a lot of couples who wanted to dissolve their marriages just decided to separate for the time being.

Statistics indicate that couples who decide to separate usually end up divorcing. A comprehensive nationwide study conducted by Ohio State University found that 80% of participants who were maritally separated ultimately got divorced, and most of the time this happened within three years of the separation. Of the remaining 20%, 15% became long-term separations, while 5% of the separated couples sought reconciliation.

In nearly every case that we have encountered, the couple separated without making decisions on important issues such as parenting, finances, and division of assets. In many cases, they did not even have an official separation date. These are critical matters that need to be discussed and planned for. Otherwise, the couple could run into some major problems later on when inevitable conflicts arise around these issues.

For couples who are separated and considering getting divorced, mediation can allow them to create a separation agreement to establish the terms and conditions of their split. Whether they decide to stay married or get divorced later on, a separation agreement gives both parties peace of mind knowing that the critical issues have been addressed. This is especially important if there are children involved because it helps couples create a way to move forward in a thoughtful manner that will protect the children.

In some states, there is a formal process of legal separation through the court system. New York is an example of one of the states that have this type of process. In other states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania, however, there is no legal separation process through the courts. In these states, mediation is especially helpful, because it allows couples to create legally enforceable agreements that address important issues that could become points of contention later on.

The Benefits of Mediation for Couples Who are Separating

As we talked about earlier, most couples who separate do so without any type of formal agreement. This is understandable in some ways because separation is often looked at as a temporary arrangement, something the couple decides to try for a while before determining the next steps.

Another reason that most separating couples do not work out a formal agreement is that they don’t know how to accomplish this without the intervention of the courts. This is where separation mediation comes in. Mediation provides couples who are getting separated with a relatively smooth and seamless process in which to create a formal agreement.

There are several reasons why couples who are in this situation are increasingly turning to mediation:

  • Affordability: Although you will need to pay for a few sessions of mediation, this is a relatively small price to pay in order to ensure that the important details of your separation are resolved ahead of time. If something blows up later on, such as a child custody battle, for example, it will be far more costly if you are forced to bring the matter to court.
  • Better Communication: Mediation provides a platform for couples to communicate openly and honestly with each other. The neutral, third-party mediator can help facilitate communication and provide guidance on how to communicate effectively, which can be a valuable skill to carry forward after the separation.
  • Customized Solutions: Mediation allows separating couples to create a solution that is tailored to their unique needs and circumstances. The mediator can help couples think creatively about solutions that are outside the box and ones that they may not have considered.
  • Assurance of Privacy: Mediation sessions are conducted privately, and everything that is discussed stays between the participants and the mediator. This gives participants the freedom to speak more openly without fear that their words could be used against them later on.
  • Remote Mediation Option: Many couples that come for separation mediation are already living apart, and sometimes, separated spouses are not very enthusiastic about sitting in the same room together to work out their differences. For spouses who are uncomfortable meeting face-to-face or they just have a hard time scheduling an in-person session, virtual mediation is a good alternative that can accomplish the same objectives.
  • Legal Framework for Divorce: A separation agreement can serve as more than just a short-term resolution. The terms and conditions of this agreement can also be used later on as a framework for an eventual divorce settlement. So, if the couple does decide to get divorced, most if not all of the important issues will already be resolved.

Court Backlog Delays Divorce Proceedings in New Jersey

A few weeks ago, we reported on the current shortage of family law judges in the New Jersey courts. This has created an unprecedented backlog of divorce cases, with many counties pushing trial start dates out until the middle of 2024. So, if you want to go through the traditional divorce litigation process, plan on waiting at least a year before your proceeding begins.

This being the case, couples who are going through serious marital difficulties can use mediation to either bypass the court system and settle their divorce now, or to create a legal agreement for their separation. Either way, it is a good idea to get these issues worked out now, so you can have more certainty during this uncertain period of your life.

Contact AMS for Help with Separation or Divorce Mediation

If you are separating or are currently separated and you need to work out a legal agreement to formalize your status, AMS is here to help. To find out more about separation or divorce mediation, call us today at (856) 669-7172 or send us an online message. We are ready when you are.


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