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Can I Use Mediation for Divorce in New Jersey Instead of a Lawyer?

It's true that couples who use mediation for divorce in New Jersey receive many benefits but how many out there even know mediation is an option? As a New Jersey divorce mediator my guess is - not nearly enough. I would have thought that divorcing couples in New Jersey would already know all about mediation and it's many benefits but you would be surprised at the mis-information out there.

Today's myth I'd like to clear up is that surrounding the use of attorneys when engaging in divorce mediation. Yes it's true that using attorneys and going to court to litigate is a stressful and expensive process and about 2% of the population does end up in court. Perhaps there is simply too much acrimony for them to sit in a room with each other and a New Jersey divorce mediator and work things out but sometimes using mediation for divorce just isn't an option.

The good news? 98% of divorcing couples in New Jersey don't need to go this route.

Does this mean you won't or can't involve an attorney in the process if you feel you need to? No it doesn't. It just means that you and your spouse are choosing to drive your divorce and make decisions based on your own interests instead of having a complete stranger drive the process and make decisions for you. For couples who come to us early in the process and use mediation for divorce they may mediate without the use of attorneys until the very end. Then when it comes time to file the paperwork with the courts, I tell them they have a choice:

  • Go "pro se" which means represent themselves and file with the courts and completely skip the use of attorneys altogether; or
  • Hire two "review attorneys" and have each attorney simply play an extremely limited role and review what was prepared in mediation and offer limited feedback and have one of them file it with the courts; or
  • Get one review attorney and have one of you go "pro se" and file it with the courts

Which direction you decide to go in is entirely up to you and your comfort level. Some couples are adamant about saving money and have a very friendly divorce and so they choose to go pro se. Some couples come to mediation and encounter a sticking point or two but still manage to work out 95% of their issues saving them lots of time and money in the process and go to an attorney to finish things off. But in my experience about 75% of the clients we see at Equitable Mediation Services seem to be comfortable enough with what they decided in mediation to get one attorney and have one of them go pro se. But no matter what route you take the answer is yes: you can use mediation for divorce in New Jersey instead of a lawyer and how you proceed once you've finished mediation is entirely up to you so if you'd like to use an attorney, feel free or if you feel one is not warranted, then that's your choice as well. Either way, you'll be savings yourself at least $20,000 in the process and ending up with the exact same result had you gone the more adversarial route.


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New Jersey is an equitable distribution state, meaning that the division of property in a divorce is to be done fairly, not necessarily equally. The court can take into consideration any factor it deems relevant when dividing property, but it must consider certain factors, such as how long the couple was married and the age and health of both spouses, the income or property brought to the marriage by each spouse, the standard of living that was achieved during the marriage, and the extent to which one spouse may have deferred career goals, among others.
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