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Asked & Answered

Frequently Asked Questions


Why Should I Try Mediation?

Most people are aware of divorce litigation. It is an adversarial process where each spouse retains an attorney to represent their interest and attain the best possible outcome in their divorce case. This can be very costly both financially and emotionally. In mediation the focus is not on getting the "best" outcome for one or the other spouse, instead the focus is on reaching a settlement that BOTH spouses believe is fair. The mediation process is generally less expensive financially, since you need not engage in the litigation process and most importantly it allows parties with children to fashion a custody and parenting arrangement that makes sense to them. During the mediation you control the speed of the and outcome of the process. Unlike divorce litigation, at any time, if mediation is not working for you, you can stop the process and go to court.


What Is Discussed In Mediation?

We will discuss all of the same issues which must be discussed in divorce litigation. We will gather the same information about your family income, assets and liabilities as would be gathered in the litigation process, but instead of reviewing that information twice, each of you separately with your attorney, we will review the information together. In mediation we can fashion a settlement that considers your unique situation and avoid a judge imposing a result on both of you.


What Is The Difference Between A Mediator And An Arbitrator?

An arbitrator, just like a judge, makes decisions regarding the resolution of marital issues. By contrast, a mediator does not make decisions for a couple. A mediator will provide information regarding what might likely happen in divorce litigation and may suggest possible solutions to an issue. At all times mediation is voluntary. The settlement of an issue requires the agreement of both spouses.


What Is The Best Way To Select A Mediator?

Many attorneys are now calling themselves mediators, but have not been certified by the only certifying organization in the State of New Jersey. The New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators reviews the credentials of those of its members who seek certification. Kathleen Vella has been certified by NJAPM as a Certified Professional Mediator. Their website http://www.njapm.org provides valuable information about mediation in our State.


Does Mediation Work In Every Divorce Case?

No, not in every case, but in most divorce cases mediation is an effective, less costly alternative to litigation. Mediation gets a couple to talk to one another in a safe environment with the goal of reaching a settlement.


What Does Mediation Cost And How Long Does It Take?

A mediation session runs for about an hour and a half to two hours. You pay for a session at the end of the session. The cost is $260 per hour and there is no retainer fee required. A small deposit is required prior to the preparation of a draft Matrimonial Settlement Agreement or Memorandum of Understanding which will set forth the terms of settlement agreed upon in the mediation. A draft Mediation Settlement Agreement or a Memorandum of Understanding should be reviewed by each spouse by his or her attorney prior to signing.


Does The Mediator Prepare The Divorce Complaint?

No, in New Jersey the same person cannot be your mediator and also your attorney. You will need two separate professionals. However, if a couple has agreed on terms of settlement, they may not need a mediator. Rather, one of the spouses may simply wish to retain Kathleen Vella, who is an attorney, to prepare a Matrimonial Settlement Agreement for the review and approval of both spouses. Under these circumstances Ms. Vella can prepared the Matrimonial Settlement Agreement and also prepare the divorce complaint. She will represent one of you throughout the process and be in court with you to finalize the divorce.


Can We Prepare The Divorce Complaint?

Yes. You will need to find the required forms either at the county courthouse, free of charge, or online for a fee. You will have to complete the forms yourself and submit they to the court. Alternatively, there are many mediation friendly attorneys in the area who will charge a reduced fee to those couples who have worked out a Matrimonial Settlement Agreement with a mediator.


Will I Have To Pay Child Support Or Alimony?

In New Jersey child support is calculated based upon the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines, which is a formula. In mediation, Kathleen Vella will gather information from you about your earnings and the earnings of your spouse, as well as discuss the custodial and parenting schedule to determine with a software program the appropriate child support in your case. Keep in mind, however, that in New Jersey a couple may choose to deviate from the guidelines if they both agree. The calculation of alimony is not determined by a formula or guidelines. Because Kathleen Vella is an attorney as well as a certified mediator she can assist you and your spouse determine, based upon the New Jersey statutory factors, the appropriate alimony which both of you can live with. Reaching a decision about alimony is one of the most difficult issues to address in either divorce litigation or mediation. But in mediation, both spouses work together to determine a level of support that is fair to both of you. Should you choose the litigation alternative, the cost of litigating this issue can be financially disabling. Most importantly, the decision may be taken from both of you should you need a judge to decide this issue.


Can Mediation Help Us With Deciding On Custody Of Our Children?

Mediation is the best alternative for the resolution of child related issues like custody and parenting-plans. At no time in the litigation process will a judge or an attorney know you, your spouse or your children better than you do. Couples who try mediation first rather than initiating an action in court want to reach a compromise and are willing to work hard to be part of their children's lives. By attempting mediation you are placing ahead of all other issues the best interests of your children and they will benefit.