The Differences Between Arbitration & Mediation in NJ Divorces

Arbitration vs. Mediation

Mediation GroupGoing through a divorce is a stressful and expensive process for most couples, especially if they choose to resolve the terms of their divorce through a court trial.  In New Jersey, spouses have the option of working out a divorce agreement on their own, without involvement from the court system.  One method is called divorce arbitration, in which an objective third party decides on the terms of a couple’s divorce agreement after listening to arguments from both sides.  The other option is divorce mediation, in which a couple works with a certified mediator in order to come up with their own divorce agreement.  Although the mediator makes suggestions, the final decisions on key issues such as domestic support, child custody and division of property are ultimately made by the spouses.

Understanding the differences between arbitration and mediation is crucial, since it directly affects the amount of control you have over the terms of your divorce.  Although arbitration is done outside of court, it works similarly to a court hearing in that both sides present their case to an arbitrator, usually through their lawyers.  Both spouses must agree on the issues to be discussed ahead of time, and whether or not the arbitrator’s decision will be binding.

Appealing an Arbitration Award

The arbitration award, or the arbitrator’s decisions, cannot be appealed with binding arbitrations unless it can be proven that the arbitrator was clearly biased against one spouse.  A spouse can appeal a non-binding arbitration award, but if the court agrees with the arbitrator, the losing spouse may be ordered to pay the other spouse’s legal costs in full.

How a Mediation is Decided

On the other hand, mediation gives couples complete control over the terms of their divorce.  The mediator is a specially trained family law attorney, who is there to facilitate civil and constructive discussion between the spouses.  The mediator can make suggestions that he or she feels is in the best interest of both parties, but an agreement can only be finalized when both spouses agree to the terms.

Should I Use Arbitration or Mediation for My Divorce?

The relationship that you have with your spouse is the one of the biggest factor in determining whether you should choose arbitration or mediation.  If you and your spouse currently have a civil relationship, you may want to try mediation since it is likely you will be able to work out a fair agreement.  However, if there is much contention and resentment in the relationship, it’s less likely that you will be able to work out terms that are agreeable to both of you.   Even couples who find that they can agree on most issues may find that they cannot see eye to eye on especially sensitive issues such as child custody.  In this case, it may be best to defer to the ruling of an experienced and objective third party.  Overall, arbitration gives couples the legal formality of a judge’s ruling without a costly and time consuming court trial.

Discuss Your Divorce with an Experienced NJ Divorce Lawyer

If you are about to go through a divorce in New Jersey and have questions about which route to resolution is the best to pursue, you should consult with a competent attorney experienced in New Jersey family law matters. Vincent C. DeLuca of Villani & DeLuca, P.C., is certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a Matrimonial Attorney. Mr. DeLuca is one of a limited number of attorneys to hold the prestigious certification of Matrimonial Attorney in New Jersey. Mr. DeLuca, whose practice is devoted to Family Law in Ocean County and Monmouth County, is one of only five certified Matrimonial Attorneys on the Roster of Mediators for Economic Aspects of Family Law in Ocean County, New Jersey. Call 732-965-3350 today for a free consultation.

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