We are pleased to announce that two of our family law attorneys have achieved the status of Court-Approved Mediator for the state of New Jersey. Congratulations to attorneys Allison Holzman and Jason Tuchman for their accomplishment and expansion of Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group’s mediation services. Two other Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group attorneys, Alison Dunn and Gregory Pasler recently completed advanced training in mediation. Read more
In part 2 and part 3 of our continuing blog series on avoiding common divorce mistakes, we looked at two different approaches to hiring a divorce attorney. In part 4, we took a look at the aggressive initial approach taken by one of subjects, Sharon. In part 1 of our series, we introduced you to our two New Jersey couples: Robert & Sharon and Jason & Melissa. In this installment, we’ll see how our second subject, Jason, takes a softer approach to commencing his case, and how that impacts initial developments. Read more
As divorce mediation grows in popularity among couples trying to save money, time, and the hassle of going to court as they end their marriages, it puts the focus on the kinds of skills needed for this type of divorce process to be successful. Read more
You’ve done your homework and decided that pursuing private divorce mediation is in your best interest for settling your divorce matter as quickly and painlessly as possible. But will your spouse see mediation in the same light? Here are some tips for how to introduce your spouse to the concept and benefits of mediation, and why it may be worth the two of you giving it a try. Read more
When Kevin and Jessica entered divorce mediation, they both immediately demanded “school night” custody of their 7-year old daughter Lilly. It became such a stalemate that it looked likely the pair would need to go before a judge. As a last resort, the mediator took each aside and asked them privately to explain the real goal of their custody demands — what did Kevin and Jessica really want? Read more
Due to the state’s judge shortage crisis, divorce trials in Essex County, home to the state’s busiest courthouse, have been on hold since December 2011. Still waiting for your day in court? Depending on the issues involved, it may be wise to ask your divorce attorney if a form of alternative dispute resolution is appropriate in your case. Two of the most popular alternatives to litigation include:
Mediation: If both parties are willing, private divorce mediation can accomplish the same goals as litigation, but comes with the added bonus of helping you feel more in control of the divorce process.
What Happens: In a typical divorce mediation session, you and your spouse sit down with your attorneys and a neutral professional known as the mediator (often a lawyer or retired judge). At first, you may take turns identifying your individual needs and wants. The mediator then tries to facilitate a settlement discussion, talking about compromises that might make sense in your situation. However, a mediator only makes recommendations when asked — his or her sole goal as a neutral professional is to get the parties to come to a resolution that they can both live with. It should be noted that this process is not recommended for divorces where abuse or domestic violence is present.
What Else to Know: Mediation is completely private and non-binding. Let’s say your July 14 court date is postponed and you give mediation a try, but it doesn’t work out to your satisfaction and you decide to go before a judge in the fall. The courts won’t know what happened behind closed doors, so nothing that happened during mediation can be used against you (nor can it be used against your spouse). With that said, however, mediation is so popular precisely because people are getting the results they want.
Arbitration: Getting divorced through arbitration is similar to mediation in that it’s confidential and an out-of-court type settlement, but the arbitrator is the one who in the end decides the terms of the divorce, much the same as a judge.
What Happens: In a typical arbitration session, a neutral arbitrator–often a lawyer or retired judge–sits in a room with a stenographer and takes testimony. Unlike the give and take of mediation, you need to go into an arbitration meeting prepared and ready to present your case to this person in the exact same way you would a judge. After listening to both sides, the arbitrator deliberates and then hands down a binding decision that you will need to live with (or go to court to appeal).
What Else to Know: If you feel you have a very strong case and have demands that you know your spouse will not compromise to meet, this type of alternative dispute resolution may be the route to take. For those who want a third part to make a decision, but don’t want to linger in court system limbo over the summer, arbitration can be a very efficient way to reach a settlement.
In divorce mediation, you and your spouse (and your respective divorce attorneys) meet with a neutral third party, the mediator, and with his or her help, amicably work to reach agreements on all the pertinent issues of divorce, including child custody, division of assets, and child support and alimony payments. Read more
“New Girl” star Zooey Deschanel filed for divorce on December 23, likely hoping that news of her split from husband, Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard, would not be buzz-worthy enough to make headlines during the holidays. The low-key star may have escaped public scrutiny, except for one key mistake: the divorce filing was accompanied by a copy of the actress’s personal financial information.
Not that she has anything to be embarrassed about. Far from being a Hollywood spendthrift, Zooey’s divorce documents show a money-savvy starlet who even gives regularly to charity. Her income and expense declaration, according to TMZ, shows that Zooey makes $95,000 a month on her hit TV sitcom, but only spends about $22,500 a month on such items as:
-Telephone, cell & e-mail – $300
-Groceries – $1,000
-Eating Out – $500
-Dry Cleaning – $600
-Utilities – $800
-Clothes – $2,000
-Charity – $1,500
Deschanel’s statements also verified that she has zero credit card debt, and has saved up $1,578,000 in the bank, $1,645,000 in stocks and $693,300 in property, bringing the 32-year-old celebrity’s net worth to a cool 3.9 million.
Other than demonstrating the value of spending relatively little and saving a lot, Zooey Deschanel’s case teaches anyone contemplating divorce a valuable lesson in privacy. Could she have done anything different to keep her financial information out of the public eye? Yes, if she had gone the route of divorce mediation or if her attorney had advised her to get the financials sealed as part of the divorce process.
Because mediated divorce is handled privately, and not in a courtroom, financial statements are primarily only seen by the mediator and parties involved, except of course if other experts are brought in — this can ultimately keep them our of public divorce records. Celebrities, athletes, and other high profile individuals are often counseled to seriously consider mediation as a way to protect financial and personal issues during times of divorce. But even for non-celebrities, maintaining privacy is important and, in this way, mediation holds a key advantage over litigation.
Another way divorce mediation helps? Zooey and Ben Gibbard married in 2009 and don’t have children. However, for couples with children, the more amicable tone of divorce mediation can help to preserve parent-child relationships (and make co-parenting easier), as opposed to litigation which can further sever the relationship. Also, divorce mediation enables you to set the terms of your divorce and gives you great flexibility in the final outcome of your divorce settlement. If a judge is deciding, you place yourself at the mercy of the court, which may not be best in your situation.
As for Zooey, we know the “New Girl” is new to divorce, but we hope she starts to get some better advice on how to handle the proceedings without the gossip grapevine having access to her every move.
For more information specific to the divorce mediation in New Jersey, please read our “Divorce Mediation” page and feel free to contact us with any questions specific to your marital situation.
Additional Resources From Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group on Divorce Mediation:
Blog Post: Seven Myths About Divorce Mediation
Yahoo Finance – Zooey Deschanel Saves Her Pennies:
The Washington Post – Zooey Deschanel Files for Divorce from Ben Gibbard:
TMZ – Zooey Deschanel Financial Net Worth Divorce:
From Arnold and Maria to your newly divorced neighbor down the street, why does it seem
like everyone these days who is contemplating divorce or separation is also considering divorce
When a divorce is privately mediated rather than litigated, you and your soon-to-be former spouse
meet with a neutral third party, the mediator. With the mediator’s help, you will all work through
the issues needed to be addressed in order to end your marriage in an amicable and cost-effective
manner. But does divorce mediation really work for everyone? And what about child custody
agreements–are these addressed during the mediation process?
If you have done any online research for answers to your questions about private (non-court
mandated) divorce mediation, chances are you have come across a great deal of conflicting–and
just plain false–information. So to clear the air, we decided to address the top seven myths about
mediation and give you the facts about what this divorce process really entails.
1 – Myth: Mediation is for Everyone
Fact: In order to move forward with divorce mediation, both parties must agree to participate.
Unlike being served with divorce papers, you cannot be served a summons to show up for a
private mediation session (be aware that the rules for court mandated mediation are different).
If your former spouse asks you to participate in mediation, you and/or your lawyer should strongly
consider the merits of this process if conditions such as the following are present:
• a history of physical/emotional abuse
• substance abuse or mental health issues that lead to impaired judgment
• you suspect that your former spouse is hiding assets
Because mediation requires both parties to actively participate in deciding the terms of their
divorce, the emotional impact of lingering abuse issues, impaired judgment, or a former spouse who
is hiding something are concerns that just do not fit this model of “amicable divorce”.
2 – Myth: Mediation Means I Will Settle For Less Than What I Deserve
Fact: Because divorce mediation can be less expensive in the long-run than a litigated divorce,
you may both be able to hang on to more of your money up front in the form of reduced legal
costs. When it comes to dividing the assets of your marriage, remember that New Jersey is an
equitable distribution state–marital assets, property, and debt that have been accumulated during
the course of a marriage are divided fairly and equitably in a divorce. Whether you work with
a mediator or go before a judge, it is in your best interest to have a lawyer with you to make
your case for what is a “fair and equitable” division of assets. Remember, a mediator only works
with the information you provide; a good lawyer can help you prepare and present the necessary
documents to strengthen your claims.
If your divorce law firm has both qualified mediators and attorneys, as we have at Weinberger
Law Group, please be aware that the firm cannot serve you in both capacities. A mediator
acts in a neutral role to help both parties whereas an attorney acts on one person’s behalf in an
independent advocate role.
3 – Myth: Lawyers Want to Litigate Not Mediate
Fact: The American Bar Association has embraced divorce mediation since 1984 when the
ABA put out their own set of standards for attorneys who wished to serve as divorce mediators.
By 2000, the family law section of the American Bar Association collaborated with national
mediation groups to devise the Model Standards of Practice for Family and Divorce Mediation.
You will find that many law firms, including Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group, have attorneys on staff
who serve as impartial third party mediators. Divorce mediators do not have to be lawyers, but
we think it is to your benefit to have someone mediate who is trained in family and matrimonial
We also believe that it is still in your best interest to have a lawyer by your side to guide and help
you during the mediation process. The choice to undergo private mediation is up to you and your
spouse. If your lawyer suggests that ligation in your case is a better way to proceed, make sure
you understand the reasoning behind this–and do not be reluctant to begin the process.
4 – Myth: Mediation Will Not Work Because I Cannot Stand to be in the Same Room as My
Former Spouse, Let Alone Negotiate With This Person.
Fact: We get it. You can’t even make eye contact with your former spouse without an argument
breaking out, so how are you supposed to work together on an agreement? Helping you
communicate with each other is at the heart of a mediator’s job. A good mediator keeps your
conversations productive and focused, especially when you find yourselves fighting the same old
fights. As the mediation process steers you toward making rational decisions you both think are
fair, we find this can often, but not always, lead to decreased animosity between parties. In cases
where mediation is desired by both spouses, but being in the same room is just not productive
at this time, it is possible to schedule separate appointments to work with the mediator, with the
goal of eventually being able to meet together.
5 – Myth: The Mediator’s Goal is to Save My Marriage
Fact: Mediators are not family or couples therapists. Their job is not to offer marital counseling
or somehow patch things up. By using mediation, both parties are agreeing that the issues in
a divorce need to be addressed and decided. Mediators are there to focus only on helping you
come up with a way to separate that you both think is fair and workable.
6 – Myth: Mediation Will Not Work If Child Custody Issues Are Involved
Fact: Research supports the notion that when families go through mediation rather than a waged
custody battle in court, children tend to have better long-term relationships with both parents.
What is behind this? As parents hammer out an agreement in mediation, it is often a time when
both parties face the fact that they will have an ongoing relationship as parents. It is also an
opportunity for spouses to realize that when it comes to the kids, they can be on the same side:
putting their children first. This is not to say that all child custody agreements should be handled
by a mediator. In instances where mediation is appropriate, however, we find that when parties
come up with a parenting plan they’ve jointly agreed on and gain tools to communicate with each
other about their children, it benefits the whole family.
7 – Myth: Determining Who is a Good Mediator is Like Finding a Needle in a Haystack
Fact: Currently, no state requires a private mediator to be licensed or certified, including New
Jersey. As a result, there is no shortage of people who have simply hung out their shingle
as a divorce mediator, some with questionable credentials. How do you find a good divorce
mediator? Look for someone with a strong knowledge of the state’s divorce laws (mediators are
not supposed to give legal advice, but can dispense legal information), a graduate degree in law,
at least 60 hours in mediation training/experience, and a commitment to following the ModelStandards of Practice for Family and Divorce Mediation.
At Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group, we provide private divorce mediators as well as divorce attorneys
who are experienced in all aspects of the divorce process. For your personal consultation on
whether our services match your needs, please call us at (973) 520-8822 or use our Contact Us
form where you will find that we are currently offering your first initial consultation free of
Family Law Practice Areas
135 US 202/206,
Bedminster, NJ 07921
20 Commerce Drive,
Cranford, NJ 07016
83 South Street,
Freehold, NJ 07728
Court Plaza South-West Wing, 21 Main Street,
Hackensack, NJ 07601