A divorce mediator is a caring and professionally trained neutral third party who helps two parties negotiate directly with each other in order to resolve a dispute, in this case - your divorce. Mediators come from a variety of backgrounds including law, mental health and finance, among others and at least here in New Jersey, can be either Accredited Professional Mediators or not accredited at all so it's best given the wide variety of individuals offering mediation services, that you make sure to thoroughly examine their training, background and experience before selecting one to handle your dispute. As you'll see below, often times the role of the mediator can be a bit blurry and in turn, our roles may become expanded beyond the boundaries of what one may traditionally define as a divorce mediator but a well trained, Accredited Professional Mediator can handle even the most difficult disputes and the success rate of mediation goes to prove that. For example, in my practice, 98% of my clients have successfully come to resolutions on all aspects of their divorce. which means you and your spouse will have an excellent chance of resolving your issues in mediation and avoiding the contentious process of using lawyer or going to court.
Three Things a Divorce Mediator Is
A divorce mediator is a caring, neutral third party - much like the role played by a marriage counselor, part of my role is to be a neutral third party to a couple that has a disagreement (in this case divorce) and help guide them to a decision about their future by asking questions and gathering information in order to better assist them. And while I am not trained in the mental health profession, as a divorce mediator I must be aware of certain behaviors and work within those behaviors to manage the conflict so that you may have a productive negotiation. I always recommend my clients see a counselor concurrently while in divorce mediation to help them deal with the emotional trauma divorce certainly brings.
A divorce mediator is a source of tremendous legal information - because we mediate in the shadow of the law, it is our job as mediators to know the pertinent legal information so that we may present it to both of you and you can make an informed decision. By taking classes, reading papers and staying up to date on court rulings, we can provide you with the latest updates that may affect your settlement.
A divorce mediator can distill a significant amount of financial information - given that three of the four areas we cover in divorce mediation are financial in nature (equitable distribution, child support and spousal support / alimony), it's important your mediator have an excellent grasp of the financial issues and related tax issues that will affect your settlement. Since I am looking at things as a neutral third party and not judging you for your spending habits or savings account balance, I can give you an honest presentation of what your financial picture looks like and allow you to make an informed decision about the splitting of your assets and liabilities.
Three Things a Divorce Mediator Is Not
A divorce mediator is not your therapist - although it is our role to manage conflict during sessions, it is not our role to act as your therapist and help you work through your issues that are a result of your divorce. Naturally people who come to mediation and go through the process are in crisis and need someone who will listen to them in a kind and caring manner and help them work through some of the feelings of hurt and anger that divorce undoubtedly brings. So sometimes while we may not act as your therapist, divorce mediation can be therapeutic in a way and seem like therapy but it is not.
A divorce mediator is not your lawyer - our role as divorce mediators is to provide both of you as much information as is necessary in order for you to make an informed decision. And while much of that information is legal in nature, it is important to realize that we cannot provide legal advice or tell you what to do as that would be acting as your advocate and in turn, the practice of law which we as mediators are not permitted to do even if we are attorneys by trade.
A divorce mediator is not your financial advisor - yes it's true that a large part of divorce is financial and that the discussions surrounding equitable distribution, child support and spousal support / alimony all center on financial matters. But much like how we aren't your lawyers, but the big difference is we are not providing advice. We cannot tell you where to invest your 401k but we can tell you what your 401k is worth and what it's comprised of. For some mediators such as myself who have an MBA in Finance, it can come in handy when dealing with complex valuation or taxation issues as while I may not be able to tell you what to do, I can tell you what you need to know and if not, who you need to speak with in order to get the information you need in order to make an informed decision.
If the divorce is being filed under one of the seven fault grounds (including extreme cruelty, adultery, abandonment, substance or alcohol addiction, institutionalization, deviant sexual conduct and incarceration), the 18 month separation period, required for a no-fault divorce, is waived. However, each ground for divorce has its own stipulations.
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