What are the Differences between Divorce Mediation, Arbitration, and Traditional Divorce?
If your marriage is coming to an end, New Jersey provides you with options as far as the process of dissolution. Many divorcing couples today choose mediation, arbitration, or combine one of those processes with traditional divorce. You can approach each method with our without hiring an attorney. The process that is right for you depends on your relationship with your spouse, your financial situation, your interest in negotiating rather than litigating (going to trial), and the complexity of issues involved. The following paragraphs consider control (who makes the final decision), privacy, and cost.
Who makes the final decision, privacy, and other issues
In successful divorce mediation, you and your spouse choose a mediator to help as you make all decisions regarding division of property and alimony/support. You and your spouse decide what the rules will be as your proceed. The meetings with you, your spouse, and the mediator conclude when you have worked out a divorce agreement. You and your spouse may consult with divorce attorneys during or at the conclusion of the process. Either party can discontinue mediation at any time and refuse to sign any agreement. If both spouses sign a divorce agreement, the family court judge will typically approve it quickly, and it will become part of the divorce judgment. If the divorce involves children, the court will take your wishes into consideration when determining custody and child support. Mediation is usually substantially less expensive than a litigated divorce. Mediation is a private, closed process. The records are not public.
In divorce arbitration, you and your spouse will choose an arbitrator to decide on the terms of your divorce, including division of property and debt, alimony/spousal support, and child support. You may select a professional with special expertise in an area of concern, such as tax law or special needs child support, or simply choose an arbitrator you feel comfortable with. You decide whether the decision of the arbitrator will be binding. The arbitrator will examine the facts and listen to each of you present your case, and then make a decision. If you agreed on binding arbitration, you will not have the right to appeal the decision, although the court will review child support and child custody issues if requested. Divorce arbitration is considered a less difficult and expensive process than traditional divorce. Arbitration is a private, closed process. Records are not public.
In traditional divorce, one spouse files a complaint for divorce. The court then sets a schedule of appearances. Each spouse will independently decide whether to hire counsel. If you hire a lawyer for your divorce, you will have little direct communication with the judge—your attorney will handle most statements. Your attorney and you’re your spouse/spouse’s lawyer will charge fees for all time spent preparing for or discussing the case. If no agreement is negotiated, the case is litigated in court. Court records are public, the terms of the divorce are decided by whichever judge hears the case, and attorney fees may be considerably higher than in a mediated or arbitrated divorce.