As a New Jersey Divorce Attorney for nearly 20 years, I certainly appreciate the dramatic emotional elements of what my client’s are going through. After we chat about the causes of the demise of their marriage, I then explain that it is time to “put my lawyer hat on.” Then, I politely explain that ultimately their divorce comes down to children and finances. Of course, as a NJ Custody Attorney, we primarily focus on the children’s well being including support and other financial concerns.

As I try to keep our meeting as upbeat as possible, we then discuss the excellent experience my previous client’s have had with New Jersey’s Custody And Parenting Time Mediation Program. I often say, “Over the years I have seen many parents who would not agree that the sky is blue leave this court mandated mediation process with all issues regarding the children resolved.” This is because the mediators are well trained and experienced in bringing parents together for the best interests of their child. Furthermore, I explain that they have benefitted their children tremendously by avoiding a custody fight. Lastly, I explain that they have saved themselves a great amount of money towards legal fees as well.

Below please find more information regarding New Jersey’s Custody And Parenting Time Mediation Program. Of course, if you ever have any questions or concerns regarding custody or parenting time regarding your children and the other parent, please never hesitate to contact my office at (732) 246-0909 or [email protected]

What is mediation?

Family Court Mediation is a process in which an impartial third party, called a mediator, assists parents and, in some instances other relatives, in reaching agreements having to do with custody and parenting time disputes. Mediation provides parties with an opportunity to actively make decisions and develop a parenting plan that the parents and children can live with. There are three ways in which you may become involved with this program:

1. The case may be referred directly by a Family Court judge through a court order. At the time of the hearing, the judge may decide that your issues might be resolved with the assistance of a mediator.

2. When a complaint for custody and parenting time is initially filed, it may be screened and found to be an appropriate case for mediation.

3. If a case is referred for a custody and parenting time investigation, it will automatically be screened to determine if it is appropriate for mediation. In the event it is appropriate, the parent(s) will automatically become involved in the program.

What types of cases are not appropriate for mediation?

Cases in which there is an active domestic violence restraining order between the parties, or active child welfare agency involvement, are not accepted into the program. Generally, matters are handled on a case by case basis to determine if they will be accepted.

How long does mediation take?

Some matters get resolved in as little as one hour while others may take longer. All mediation appointments are scheduled in three hour blocks of time to allow parties ample time to discuss their concerns. There are instances when it becomes necessary to schedule a second session in order to resolve issues and to reach a final agreement.

What happens if we reach an agreement?

If you reach an agreement that is acceptable to both you and the other parent, the mediator will prepare a memorandum of understanding or consent order. This document will outline the terms of the agreement and will be signed by both you and the mediator. Once the memorandum of understanding or consent order is signed by the judge, it becomes a legal and enforceable order of the court.

What happens if we don’t reach an agreement?

If an agreement cannot be reached through mediation, one of two things can happen:

1. If the case was originally referred for a custody or parenting time investigation, the matter will be automatically transferred to the Family Court’s Assessment Unit so that the appropriate investigation can be performed, or

2. If the matter was referred directly into the program from court, it will then be rescheduled before that same judge for a hearing at a later date.

What do I have to do to prepare to mediate my case?

All parties involved in the Mediation Program will have to attend a Parents Education Program or workshop. At the workshop, participants will view videotapes, receive written information relating to custody and parenting time and are free to ask questions about the mediation process in general. The primary purpose of this workshop is to educate parents as to how their child(ren) are affected when the parents become involved in custody and parenting time disputes.

Who participates in the mediation session?

Mediation is a confidential process. Information discussed between the parties and the mediator is not discussed by the mediator with anyone including your attorney and the judge. The individuals who are directly involved in the matter are required to participate in the mediation session. Attorneys are also permitted to attend and participate. As a general rule, the mediator and the parties should consider whether it is appropriate to involve the child in the mediation process.

Why should I have my case mediated instead of having a judge decide my case?

The mediation process allows you and the other parent to maintain the ability to control the parenting plan that will affect your life and the child(ren)’s life. Mediation encourages cooperation, and communication between parents. When issues of custody and parenting time go before a judge, the control over making any decisions is surrendered to the judge, who has the final say.

How much does mediation cost?

There is no cost to the parties if they participate in this program.