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Calculating Alimony When Using Mediation for Divorce

As a New Jersey divorce mediator I am always surprised when I meet a couple for the first time and learn just how much they don't know about using mediation for divorce. I would have thought by now with the large number of websites and blogs dedicated to the topic and the attention divorce mediation has gotten in recent years (including being the profession of choice for the gentlemen in the movie "The Wedding Crashers" although given that I am an Accredited Professional Mediator I am in no way the charlatans Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson were in the movie!) more people would be familiar with the concept of using mediation for divorce in New Jersey. Sadly that is still not the case. With that in mind, I'd like to outline some of the real questions I've been asked by couples just like you and today's question has to do with calculating alimony in New Jersey and how that's handled in mediation. The quick answer? The same way it would be handled were you to hire an attorney and litigate.

Many couples are surprised that we even discuss alimony in mediation as for some reason they think they have to go to an attorney which is simply untrue. Alimony is discussed along with the other three main areas of divorce including the parenting plan, equitable distribution and New Jersey child support and all agreements are then drafted into the Memorandum of Understanding. Given the vagueness of alimony in New Jersey, when you think about it, mediation is the perfect place to discuss it. You see one of the challenges facing divorcing couples in New Jersey is that there is no set formula for alimony like there is in other states. Alimony in New Jersey is based on a series of 13 statutory factors which when you really read through them provide little guidance in terms of how alimony is really calculated. That's why we use a budget based approach which allows us to discuss what the couples goals are post-divorce and come up with an amount that allows each party to maintain a relatively similar post-marital lifestyle vis a vis each other and to ease the transition from intact family to a separated one.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: this is your divorce - not the court's, not the judge's and certainly not your attorney's so why not discuss with each other what alimony arrangement works in your particular situation instead of leaving it in the hands of complete strangers who don't know you or your children? Using mediation for divorce allows you to do just that.


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