Divorcing couples and parents involved in child custody disputes often try to reach an agreement through mediation before their cases go to court. Court battles can be expensive in New Jersey, the proceedings are held in public and there is no guarantee that either party will be happy with the outcome, but mediation takes place behind closed doors and gives disputing parties an opportunity to resolve their differences in a supportive rather than adversarial atmosphere.
The mediator’s role
Mediators are not judges and cannot impose a decision on disputing parties. Instead, they use their training and experience to help parties find areas of agreement. Once the common ground has been identified, mediators encourage disputing parties to discuss thornier issues and work toward an amicable settlement. This can be a delicate process in family law cases, which is why many mediators have backgrounds in psychology or counseling.
Mediation in New Jersey
Lawmakers in New Jersey have given judges the authority to refer civil cases to mediation to ease the burden on the court system. This most commonly happens in divorce and child custody cases, but judges may order mediation sessions in any general equity, probate or civil dispute. When they do, the parties can work with a court-appointed mediator for up to two hours at no cost.
The benefits of mediation
Disputing parties who reach an agreement through mediation are usually satisfied with the outcome, which means they are less likely to harbor the lingering resentment that is so common in family law cases. This is why mediation is particularly useful in child custody disputes where parents will have an ongoing relationship. If mediation sessions do not lead to a breakthrough, the parties can still take their case to court and leave the decision up to a judge.