DO I HAVE TO GO THROUGH MEDIATION BEFORE MY DIVORCE?

In New Jersey, mediation is not mandatory in divorce cases. If you decide that mediation is not right for you or if you tried mediation and were not pleased with the results, you have the right to go to court and have your divorce decided by a judge. However, there is a mandatory process in New Jersey divorces for attempting to resolve financial issues, such as equitable distribution of marital property and support, without the need for a trial.

The Early Settlement Panel (ESP) is a mandatory process where two experienced family law attorneys listen to each spouse's arguments and make non-binding recommendations about compromise on financial issues. If you and your spouse can reach an agreement here, you can enter into a written settlement.

If you don't reach a settlement at the ESP, you and your spouse will move on to Economic Mediation. At this stage, the attorneys representing you and your spouse will mutually agree upon a mediator to use during the proceeding. The mediator will listen to both sides and caucus back and forth with one side and the other to make a recommendation about how to resolve your financial issues. If your case doesn't settle during Economic Mediation, the court will likely set an in-court settlement conference known as an Intensive Settlement Conference.

Divorce mediation, on the other hand, is a different process then the ESP and Economic Mediation. Divorce mediation can address and resolve all issues in a divorce, including issues like child custody and visitation. In contrast, ESP and Economic Mediation address only financial disputes. In mediation, the mediator will work outside of the court system to assist the parties in coming up with compromises that are acceptable to both sides.

Mediation usually means speedier resolutions of issues, and hence lower costs for the parties involved. Many spouses also appreciate the non-adversarial atmosphere that mediation presents.

While mediation is not mandatory in New Jersey divorces, it often resolves issues without the need for a divorce trial. Economic mediation, which is mandatory, can be similarly beneficial when resolving financial issues between spouses. In either proceeding, or even if your case goes to trial before a judge, your divorce lawyer will represent your best interests every step of the way.

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