Mediation is an alternate dispute resolution process in which two parties to a dispute meet on a voluntary basis with a neutral, trained professional who can help them identify issues, negotiate those issues, and reach a mutually acceptable agreement. Mediation is a confidential process in which parties are encouraged to openly discuss ideas and potential resolutions to the issues in dispute. In order for mediation to be successful, parties are expected to make full disclosure of their finances and any other facts that, if known, would have an impact on what the other party will agree to. Mediators do not provide legal advice, do not advocate for either side, and do not represent either or both parties in the divorce or other family law process. Mediation is not a binding process, but ideally each party consults with an independent attorney before or during the process in order to gain a general understanding of his and her rights and obligations under the law. Couples can have their attorneys accompany them to mediation sessions, or they can participate on their own. The mediator drafts the terms of the parties’ agreement in a Memorandum of Understanding, which the parties take to their attorneys for review and approval, and to have a formal, binding settlement agreement prepared.
Amy Wechsler is a Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney in Warren, New Jersey and a partner with the law firm of Shimalla, Wechsler, Lepp & D’Onofrio, LLP.