Divorcing couples, particularly in New Jersey, are increasingly aware that mediation is a viable alternative to a contentious, litigated divorce. Mediation involves both parties sitting down with a neutral third-party mediator and their own individual attorneys to set the terms for their divorce.
Once both parties have agreed on terms, they can then file an uncontested divorce in the New Jersey courts. However, as with any skilled service, mediation is often only as valuable as the professionals that divorcing couples work with during the divorce. Mistakes in paperwork, inadequate counsel and other issues can impact the viability of your mediation agreement.
Seemingly small mistakes can have major consequences
The courts in New Jersey expect that those seeking a divorce will properly execute all necessary paperwork. The diligence and experience of your mediator and your individual attorney are critical to successful mediation and a positive outcome to your divorce. Mistakes in paperwork or in handling of the mediation process can wind up undoing all the progress that a couple makes.
As an example, consider a recent case right here in New Jersey. The New Jersey Appellate court had to rule on a situation where one spouse claims that mediation was not successful while the other spouse claims that it was. As is common, the mediation session ended with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This document outlined the agreed-upon terms for the divorce.
However, when the case went to court, one spouse claimed that they never completed mediation or agreed to terms with their ex. Only the mediator had signed the MOU. Neither spouse had signed. As a result, the courts found that the MOU was inadmissible in the divorce proceedings.
Mistakes in mediation can reduce the benefits it offers
Mediation is a great solution for many couples in part because of how many benefits it offers. Done properly, mediation can make for a faster, cheaper and less contentious divorce. It also helps the couple involved maintain more control over the outcome of their divorce. There is also the privacy of not needing to air your dirty laundry in court thanks to the confidentiality of the mediation process.
When mistakes complicate the mediation process, the divorcing couple will lose out on some of those benefits. This is particularly true if the courts must disregard the mediation outcome and proceed with a litigated divorce. In that scenario, the divorce can end up taking longer and costing more for the couple.
Working with an attorney who has experience with divorce mediation reduces the risk of critical errors in mediation documents. More importantly, your attorney can help you negotiate for the best possible resolution to the terms of your divorce that matter most to you.