The decision to get a divorce is a difficult one, no matter what the circumstances are. Deciding whether you’d like to take your divorce to mediation can add to the challenge. It’s important to understand mediation and figure out what you want out of the process.
During a divorce you essentially have two options: go to court to fight it out or try to fairly separate as a couple as amicably as possible. There are a lot of emotions involved in a divorce, and drawn-out court fights before you get to a final agreement can make the entire process much more stressful. If you want to settle your divorce privately and amicably, divorce mediation may be right for you.
What Is Divorce Mediation?
As a starting point, it’s important to know how divorce mediation differs from the in-court divorce process (known as “litigation). Divorce mediation differs from traditional divorce in that:
- It’s less costly than litigation
- It is less stressful than litigation
- It takes much less time than litigation
- It’s private, whereas litigation requires you to file all your private information in the public domain
- A judge only is involved to enter the agreement as a judgment of divorce
In divorce mediation, by contrast, a divorcing couple reaches a separation agreement privately using a specially trained individual, known as a mediator.
Divorce Mediation Requirements in NJ
Choosing divorce mediation can keep a challenging situation from becoming more stressful, and it’s required even in litigated cases in New Jersey. This voluntary method requires both sides to be willing to participate or else the mediation may terminate. Taking your divorce through mediation can be difficult if you’re willing to compromise but your spouse isn’t. Both people need to be on board.
You and your spouse will need to present financial records to the mediator to complete the mediation process. Both parties have to be willing to disclose everything about their financial lives. If one person is attempting to hide assets or other information, you likely won’t be able to move forward with mediation.
Some of the items you’ll need to have in order for the mediation to be completed include:
- Personal identifying information such as name, date of birth, address;
- Name and dates of birth of your children;
- Current personal bank statements;
- Current investment statements;
- Current children’s account statements, such as college funds and savings accounts managed by parents;
- Vehicle information;
- Employment information;
- Current business account statements (if applicable);
- Current market value appraisals of all owned real property;
- Estimated value of personal property such as collectibles and valuable art;
- Current business valuation (if applicable);
- Current loan statements;
- Proof of income; and
- Federal and State Income Tax returns and attached Schedules.
These documents will help a mediator guide you through your divorce to determine what needs to be discussed and what assets and liabilities need to be divided. All of these issues need to be clearly addressed in the final agreement.
Divorce Mediation Results
During the mediation process, you’ll have the opportunity to discuss several issues. Typically there is an initial meeting where each spouse will get to explain what they’d like to get out of the divorce including:
- Child custody and parenting time
- Child support
- Division of assets and liabilities
The mediation process, while difficult in a way that only divorce can be, is much smoother and quicker and less harmful to the children than a contested divorce where one or both sides are arguing over the final agreement. When both people are willing to work together, they can reach an agreement that may even allow for future changes as needed.
At the end of the mediation process a review attorney will help you make sure that the final agreement, also known as the Marital Settlement Agreement, is fair and one you can live with. Aside from walking away from a divorce with the same respect for one another that brought you to get married in the first place, you’ll save yourself time, money, and a lot of additional stress.
If you’re looking for a divorce that’s cost-effective and cooperative, contact Keith Family Law. Our attorneys work with many couples who choose mediation over contested divorce, leaving families intact, even when living separate lives.