For some divorcing spouses, the prospect of going to Court is terrifying. As a result, divorcing parties are increasingly seeking alternative methods to resolve their issues. Mediation is a popular alternative to litigation for various reasons. First, it puts the parties in control of the outcome and many times the process. The parties are able to come up with creative resolutions to their disputes, with the assistance of a mediator, which may be different from what a judge would or could do under the law. By way of example, a judge is not able to order payment of alimony by way of a lump sum, however this can be accomplished by agreement of the parties. Second, many people find that mediation is a less expensive alternative to litigation. While this is true in many instances, the cost of mediation (similar to the cost of litigation) depends greatly on the parties involved and each party’s dedication to a quick and inexpensive resolution. If one party to a divorce wants to “fight,” mediation can be expensive as well. When considering mediation, you should keep the following in mind:
•1) Be sure to select a qualified mediator who is familiar with family law. Many attorneys and retired Family Part Judges offer mediation services. When selecting a mediator, be sure to pay attention to the mediator’s credentials and find a person with whom you and your spouse are comfortable.
•2) Determine whether you and your spouse are good candidates for mediation. If you are well-aware that you and/or your spouse refuse to compromise, mediation may not be the right forum for you.
•3) Consider retaining an attorney to help you through the mediation process. Your attorney can be present with you at mediation, or you and your spouse can attend mediation without attorneys. Either way, it is a good idea to retain an attorney to advise you as to your rights under the law, as it is not the mediator’s place to advocate for either party.
•4) Even complex matters can be mediated. In those cases it is even more important to select the right mediator. See point number one.
•5) Most mediators will not consult with one party without the other present. Therefore, if you would like an attorney to mediate for you, it is important to say so when contacting that attorney so that he or so may conduct the consultation accordingly. If you meet with an attorney alone and later wish for that attorney to act as a mediator, he or she may have to decline to do so.
If you would like more information on mediation the first step should be to contact an experienced family law attorney, who can point you in the right direction. Posted by Robyn E. Ross, Esq.