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Divorce Mediation in New Jersey: consider it, but not in place of an attorney

In this economy, many people in New Jersey are having trouble funding a divorce.  This leads some to stay in an unhappy marriage while others seek  cheap alternatives to the traditional divorce process.  However, I’m afraid that some people think that a divorce mediator can solve everything without an attorney.  While it is possible that some people can avoid ever hiring an attorney, I don’t think this is the best option for others.

Some attorneys, such as myself, have free consultations.  Thus, it will cost you nothing to meet with an attorney and get some information.  However, you should understand that a free consultation does not mean free legal advice.  So, there is no reason not to explore the attorney option, the costs, etc.

Keep in mind that there are two distinct types of divorce mediation.  One is with a therapist, counselor or social worker to resolve the emotional issues and help both people move forward with their new lives.  The second type deals with the legal issues.  I think everyone should speak to someone to deal with the emotional issues as it can only benefit your mental health and reduce stress.  I’m not sure everyone needs a mediator for the legal issues.

I am a huge fan of resolving cases without unnecessary expense and extensive litigation.  However, without knowing your rights, it may be tough to know what position you should take during  the mediation.  I have also heard some people tell me that they felt that the mediator chose one side over another.  Thus, mediation can lead to more problems and waste time and money.

My advice is to first meet with an attorney to explore the legal issues.  I prefer to set up a meeting with the other attorney and both litigants to discuss all of the issues.  We call this a four-way conference.  Assuming both parties (and both attorneys) are reasonable, there is no reason why the case cannot be resolved.  However, if an impasse is reached, then mediation may make sense.

Another time mediation may make sense is when the issues are minor and the parties generally agree on the issues but there is still some unknown as to how to handle certain legal issues.  The mediator then can guide the parties to not only resolving the case but how to handle the divorce itself and the issues that may arise afterwards. 

If you are getting divorced in New Jersey or if you are thinking about it, give me a call.  We can discuss all of your options.  I can either represent you in the case or I can act as a mediator.  However, please know that an attorney cannot generally do both as this would create a conflict of interest.