Why Divorce Mediation is a Better Way For New Jersey Couples

Divorce mediation is an option for New Jersey couples that can save time and money.  It can even yield substantial benefits for families with high degrees of conflict.  Mediation allows the parties to maintain more control over the results as opposed to letting the courts decide.  Take a look at our divorce mediation checklist below and let us know if you have any questions.  You can reach us at 908-284-6005
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Here’s why divorce mediation is better for NJ couples:

  • Parties appreciate increased privacy of mediation
  • Attorneys bill significantly fewer hours when a case is in mediation
  • Attorneys, as well as parties, express a high level of satisfaction
  • 72% of attorneys report that mediation is less costly for their clients
  • The range of solutions is far wider in mediation
  • Over 90% of cases referred to mediation result in written agreements
  • Over 80% of the parties are satisfied with the terms of the mediated agreement
  • Court cost savings of using mediation is over 50%
  • 90% of mediation participants felt that the mediation process was clear, the mediator had good ideas, and that they had been listened to
  • Parties are more likely to abide by the terms of a mediation agreement
  • Mediating cases ends disputes faster
  • Parties save significant attorney fees, expert witness fees, and other costs
  • Overall costs of mediated agreements are 40% less than matters resolved through litigation
  • Over 50% participants felt they changed the way they handled conflicts from their mediation experience and 70% of family members reported less arguing and fighting for months following the mediation
  • Nearly 60% of participants report that they better understood the other person’s point of view following the mediation
  • 90% of participants felt the mediation process was good. Quicker settlements increase satisfaction levels for both clients and attorneys.
  • 77% of participants expressed extreme satisfaction with the mediation process. A substantial portion of those who failed to reach an agreement in mediation believed mediation was useful and would recommend it to others.

Indicators That Mediation Is Appropriate For Divorcing Couples

Mediation works successfully for many divorcing families. We have found that while cooperative couples more readily choose to mediate, families with high degrees of conflict need mediation even more due to the high costs of litigation, which often provokes additional conflict. We have developed the following indicators to help clients confirm their decision to attempt mediation. An absence of many of the indicators does not make successful mediation impossible. However, it does mean that disputes may be more difficult and costly to settle.

Please consider each condition that exists in your situation:

  1. The grieving process is ongoing or complete for both parties.
  2. The attorneys retained by the parties are experienced in and supportive of mediation.
  3. There are no acts of hiding assets.
  4. There are no acts of denying access to the child(ren).
  5. Both parties agree to total accessibility to documentation regarding assets, liabilities, and income.
  6. There is no history of violence or abuse.
  7. The parties have a history of cooperative and successful problem solving on some issues.
  8. The parties are capable and willing to communicate with each other and
    with the mediator in a reasonable and civil manner.
  9. There is some pressure to settle because of time, high attorneys costs, or unpredictable outcome.
  10. There are adequate resources to find a compromise (limited resources tend to create more competitive relationships and striving for win/lose
    outcomes).
  11. The parties’ desire for the settlement of the dispute is high.

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Overview of Mediation Process

1. CLIENT ORIENTATION

We will first schedule an orientation session with you and the other party. If the other party does not know about mediation or does not initially want to mediate, you can request that we make contact with the other party to start the mediation. At the orientation, both parties will be introduced to the mediation process through the following:

ORIENTATION PHASE I (NO CHARGE)

  • Receive client packet
  • Discuss questions/concerns related to mediation
  • Schedule appointment with mediator
  • Sign mediation agreement

2. MEDIATION SESSIONS

Mediation sessions are 1-3 hours in length. The mediator helps the parties resolve conflict by: 1) providing a safe place for the parties to communicate; 2) helps the parties create options for resolutions; and 3) helps the parties think about open issues from different perspectives.

All communications during and associated with your mediation are confidential and can never be used against you in a court of law. Most divorce mediations last between three to six sessions. If private sessions are not conducted the mediation sessions can take longer. After orientation, parties will meet with the mediator for their first joint mediation session. The mediator, having received information from the clients, will be familiar with the necessary background information of the parties.

After the first joint session, the mediator will then conduct individual or joint sessions as agreed until settlement is reached. Between sessions, please contact us for additional assistance or further information.

4. POST-MEDIATION

Summary Letters: When the mediation sessions end, the mediator will prepare summary letters for both clients and will mail these letters to the clients.

Memo of Understanding: At the end of the mediation, the mediator will prepare a Memorandum that incorporates the critical points of the agreement reached between the parties. Once the parties sign, this becomes a binding contract.

5. DRAFTING OF LEGAL DOCUMENTS

At your request, we will draft Judgments, Property Settlement Agreements, Disclosures, Deeds, etc. However, you can have documents prepared by any lawyer, paralegal, or you could even do them yourself.

6. FEES AND PAYMENT INFORMATION

  • Phase I Orientation – No Charge
    Mediation sessions – $385.00 per Hour
  • Clients pay at the end of each scheduled session.
  • Inter-session letters will be charged for one half hour of the mediator’s hourly rate. Letters will be mailed and payment is due upon request for the letter.
  • One between session telephone call between the mediator and client(s) is free of charge. However, if more are needed, the client will be billed a pro-rated fee based on the mediator’s hourly rate. Payment is due prior to the next session.
  • All telephone calls between the clients and the mediator will be charged a minimum of .2 increments of the mediator’s hourly rate.

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Instructions for Negotiating Directly with One Another

  1. When you have a problem concerning the children or finances, try to work it out with your partner. Don’t let it fester or cause you to overact.
  2. Set a telephone appointment time in advance when there will be few distractions.
  3. Tell your partner what your concerns are and give your proposal for solution. Listen to your partner’s response. Use “I” statements. Don’t blame or accuse your partner. Focus on the positive.
    Example: “I think that Karen is very tired when she goes to school after an overnight at your house. I feel we should coordinate bedtimes at both houses. What do you think?”
    Partner: “Stay out of my life. I care about Karen as much as you do.”
    You: I know you do. Could we set 7:30 as her bedtime.
    Partner: [Yes, no or counterproposal.]
  4. If the phone call starts getting out of control, politely end the call and suggest you talk again later. (Don’t try again that day. It does not help to have multiple calls when both of you are anxious and angry.)
  5. If you don’t solve the problem in your first phone call, you can either try the next day or write a polite note restating your concern and proposed solution.
  6. If you feel physically and emotionally safe, try suggesting that you meet your partner for coffee at a public place to discuss the unresolved issues.
  7. Agree in advance to have a red flag rule for face-to-face meetings. A partner who feels threatened or believes the discussion is getting ugly can raise his or her hand and terminate the conversation.
  8. If you reach an agreement after the meeting, write a polite note restating the agreement and thanking your partner for cooperating with you.
  9. At any point, feel comfortable in calling your lawyer for advice or to help prepare for discussion with your partner. We enjoy being available to help coach our clients. Also, we can help you draft notes or letters for you to send.
  10. If it becomes too difficult, harmful, or unproductive, we would be pleased to speak for you to your partner (if unrepresented) or to your partner’s lawyer. However, if at all possible, make every effort to work things out with your partner. Our fees can add up. Also, someday you will have to talk with your partner without lawyers.

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Personal Data Form

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Financial Data Form

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Monthly Budget Expenses Form

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Division of Property Checklist

New Jersey law requires equitable division of marital assets and liabilities. Separate property of each party should be listed. Which assets will be divided equally and in kind, and which will be allocated solely to one party or the other to produce this equitable division should be discussed. Remember to deal with all of the following assets:

  1. Family Residence, with its loans.
  2. Other Real Property, with its loans. This includes time-shares.
  3. Owner-Operated Businesses, including corporations, partnerships and sole proprietorships.
  4. Life Insurance insuring each party’s life, together with cash value.
  5. Employee Benefits, including stock, stock options, pension and profit sharing, retirement, ESOP, stock purchase, accrued sick and vacation pay, paid time off, “comp time.”
  6. Investments – Limited partnerships, joint ventures and other such investments.
  7. Account Balances on deposit in the checking, savings, credit union, brokerage, and other institutional accounts. This includes IRA’s, CD’s and other such cash accounts.
  8. Stock and Stock Options, Bonds.
  9. Vehicles, with their loans (cars, trucks, airplanes, motorcycles, boats).
  10. Household Furniture, furnishings, equipment and personal effects.
  11. Lawsuits proceeds or liabilities.
  12. Money Owed To Others (loans made, lines of credit, second mortgages, and so forth)
  13. Money Owed To You.
  14. Intellectual Property (royalties, patents, computer programs, prizes, and the like, including work in progress at separation).
  15. Frequent Flier Miles accrued during marriage.
  16. Club Memberships or Season Tickets.
  17. Cemetery Plots.
  18. Reimbursements and Credits Owed for payments of marital bills or loans made after separation.
  19. Implementing Agreements – Calendaring dates (sale, notes due, etc.), regular check-ups, mandatory mediation.

Download the Property Checklist here

Child Support Checklist

1. Monetary payments for child support

a. From whom to whom
b. Amounts and how often
c. Direct or through the court, court fees
d. If direct, any coverage of legal costs for enforcement
e. Any reduction of child support when children with other parent
f. Child care expenses
g. Other child-related expenses (clothing, activities, camp, etc.)

2. Medical insurance coverage for children

a. Carried by whom
b. Payments made by whom
c. Change if parent carrying insurance not covered through employment

3. Medical costs not covered by insurance

a. Paid for by whom
b. What will be paid for – hospital, medical, optical, dental, orthodontic, counseling, psychological, psychiatric

4. Life insurance to cover obligations to children in case of death of parent

a. How much to go for this obligation
b. For how long
c. Who will be the beneficiary
c. Should there be a life insurance trust

5. Income tax exemptions for children and signing of waiver
6. Post-high school education of children

a. Any minimum guarantees to children
b. Any agreement on contributions by parents

Download the Child Support Checklist here
Spousal Support Checklist

  1. Waiver: Will support for either or both parties be waived and terminated? Will there be a one-time lump-sum buy-out of either party’s support rights?
  2. Spousal Support for Either Party: If support will be paid, then you must resolve the following issues.
    a. Amount: What is the amount of monthly support.b. Term: How long should the support continue? Should there be an absolute termination, indefinite support, a review of support on a particular date, or a date for termination unless a motion is brought to extend support. In the alternative, support can be set at $0, but the court can still have the right to order support for either party for good cause for some transitional period.c. Vocational Issues: Is either party under or unemployed? What is the requirement for that party to obtain training and employment? What are the income expectations for that party. Should reviews of that person’s employment progress be scheduledd. Unpredictable Income: How should bonus, seasonal or other unexpected or unpredictable income be factored into support?e. Tax Consequence of Support: Is one party a beneficiary of the other’s medical insurance policy? How is that party going to be insured after the divorce is final, and who will pay for that coverage? Are there problems with insurability?
  3. Future Modification of Support: Yearly reviews; required mediation; calendar important dates (Step-Downs, Termination, etc.)

Download The Spousal Support Checklist here

Parenting Checklist

  1. Goals of parenting after separation
  2. Decision making for education, medical treatment, religious upbringing
  3. Schedule for children
    • Weekdays/nights and weekends (Regular school year)
    • School vacations
    • Holidays (e.g. Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter, Palm Sunday, Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Halloween, others)
    • Special days (e.g. children’s birthdays, parents’ birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day)
    • Jewish Holidays (e.g. Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Hanukkah)
  4. Special Agreements
    • Pick up and return
    • Child care arrangements
    • Sick days
    • Payment for college
    • Education and health information about children
    • Other
  5. Missed Visits
    • Notice
    • Reimbursement for expenses incurred
  6. Evolving Parenting Arrangements
    • Parent moving away
    • Step-Parents – Blended family
    • Growing older
    • Children’s future
    • Regular Reviews
  7. Decision-Making and Parent Meetings
    • Meet and confer
    • Mini evaluations
    • Required mediator

Download the Parenting Checklist here

Tools for Holiday Parenting Schedule

Download the Tools For Holiday Parenting here