By Neal J. Berger, ESQ.
We live in demanding and stressful times. Time and money are precious commodities which are not in abundance nor easily acquired. What are the options for a couple that decides to separate or divorce? Can they avoid a nasty, expensive battle? Can they arrive at terms for a divorce without resorting to an escalating war? Can they get beyond this and on with their lives relatively quickly? Can they accomplish this without spending their entire savings or losing their dignity and sanity? Can they minimize the trauma for their children?
You are probably familiar with mediation as the process used by labor unions and management to air and discuss differences and arrive at an agreement of terms. But do you realize that today mediation is being effectively used by trained professionals working with couples seeking to separate or divorce? This non-adversarial process allows the divorcing parties to control the course of events and produce a better result in much less time, at a fraction of the cost.
Traditionally when a couple starts the divorce process each spouse retains an attorney and legal proceedings begin. The process can take up to a year or longer and can become exceedingly expensive. More importantly, emotional stress, particularly upon children, is devastating.
Mediation, on the other hand, is a cooperative process which significantly reduces time, cost and aggravation. When this method is used an agreement on all issues is usually reached in about two to three months without the occurrence of a long and difficult fight.
In mediation couples meet with a trained mediator who guides them to a fair and equitable arrangement. These meetings occur once a week in a comfortable office. Discussions are informal and take place with both spouses present. At times, however, during the course of mediation it is found beneficial to meet with each spouse alone.
Through the skill of the mediator spouses are directed towards solutions which they would otherwise not realize on their own. The mediator is able to reach the parties by showing them that common ground exists, without years of fighting. As a consequence, couples often leave the marriage as friends (or at least not as mortal enemies) creating a much better situation for their children as well as for themselves.
Animosity or anger between spouses does not prevent successful mediation. The trained mediator is able to significantly reduce friction by enabling the parties to understand the benefits of this process not only for themselves, but also for their entire family.
The key is that the mediator causes the parties to speak directly and rationally to each other. Because an agreement reached in mediation is achieved directly by the parties themselves, conflict after the divorce is minimized or eliminated. Clearly this is superior to allowing results to be brought about by third parties, one of whom is opposing you. As a consequence, the agreement reached is in the best interest of all members of the family involved. It will allow people to thrive and get on with their lives after the divorce is completed.
Even if you are not financially in a position to divorce, let us help you form an agreement that will govern the rights and obligations of you and your spouse, whether or not both of you continue to reside in the same home. This will provide a more peaceful and predictable environment in which to live.
Mediation can also be utilized to obtain a temporary or permanent separation. Even if the parties have already retained separate attorneys, mediation can still be used to obtain a faster and less expensive result. In this regard, each party is free to consult with his or her own attorney prior to any agreement becoming final.
In addition to the participation of the mediator, couples can be assured that, if needed, other professionals such as accountants, financial planners, psychologists and psychiatrists are brought into the process. Mediation is a viable choice that should definitely be considered when contemplating or involved in divorce. To do otherwise would not serve one's interests well.
Neal J. Berger, Esq. has practiced law for over thirty years, specializing in family law, including divorce, custody and other family matters. Mr. Berger is a Certified Divorce Mediator, an appointed Law Guardian Pool Attorney for minors and serves as a panelist on Matramonial Early Settlement Panels in several area counties. His divorce mediation firm has locations in Essex, Middlesex, Morris and Union Counties in the State of New Jersey.