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New Jersey Divorce - Custody Mediation
NJ DIVORCE & CUSTODY MEDIATION is a
process in which a trained mediator helps a couple to make family
law related decisions such as child custody, support, alimony and
equitable distribution, without court involvement. Rather than making
decisions for the parties, the mediator helps them to make their
own decisions with expert guidance. The result is more satisfying
for the parties and generally produces more durable solutions than
those achieved and ultimately imposed upon the parties through litigation.
New Jersey Divorce & Custody Mediation Questions
New Jersey Divorce & Custody
A divorce or parenting mediation can be what the couples choose
it to be. It is the mediator's job to think of each family as unique
and to help the couple sort out the needs of everyone involved,
including the couple, their children, and even — at times —
The parties can resolve all issues that comprise the terms of a
divorce or separation agreement at the mediation, or they can mediate
a portion of their divorce or custody and parenting issues, leaving
the remainder for their attorneys to sort out following the mediation.
Separation and divorce are among the most painful and disruptive
events that an individual and family can experience. The problems
are both financial and emotional, deeply touching all members of
the family. One of the aims of mediation is to reduce this tension
— not add to it. With the help of the mediator, couples negotiate
their own settlement and learn the techniques for resolving future
differences. Mediation is one of the ways separating or divorcing
couples can retain control over the decisions affecting their lives,
while keeping their children from getting caught in the middle.
Mediation is not just for couples who already know how to cooperate
with one another. Successful mediators can show people how to work
together productively, in spite of their anger, disappointment and
During mediation other professional services are sometimes needed,
such as those of accountants, lawyers, financial planners, career
counselors, psychotherapists and child psychologists. Joint hiring
of common experts is usually recommended.
Protection of Legal Rights
Before signing any legal papers, it is strongly advised that each
party consult with his or her own attorney for review of the jointly
developed decisions prior to signing the final documents. This attorney
review, however, is far less expensive to the parties and can save
considerable time and emotional turmoil.
If the parties want to consult with their respective attorneys during
the mediation process, they are invited and encouraged to. If a
party is uncertain as to his or her legal rights and feels more
comfortable with an attorney's advice, then independent legal consultation
would be highly recommended. Although the focus is more on needs,
interests, and concerns, at no time do mediators want their clients
to feel they are giving up any of their rights.
New Jersey Divorce & Custody Mediation
Most mediations cost about half of what a litigated uncontested
divorce would cost. Contested divorces are of course considerably
higher and could reach into the six figures. Mr. Romanowski employs
his own fee structure, which involves a sliding scale dependent
upon case complexity and other economic factors.
Although every case is unique, most cases involve about 6-15 hours
of direct contact time in mediation. Office sessions are typically
1 1/2 hours in length.
Our aim in mediation is to resolve disputes by first bringing about
a better understanding of the specifics of the actual conflict.
It has been our experience that creative, mutually beneficial solutions
are more readily achieved in contexts where parties are clear on
their own needs and objectives, while understanding of each other's
perspectives, priorities, and concerns. We will always support our
mediation clients in designing joint resolutions, reflective of
their personal and economic interests.
Our philosophy includes the recognition that we serve clients with
different needs, temperaments and levels of readiness. Our approach,
therefore, is as flexible as the roles we assume in our mediation.
In the course of mediating to find positive
collaborative solutions, feedback, coaching, mentoring and assessment
can be used to mitigate unresolved conflicts and moderate conflict-encouraging
behaviors. The role played by the mediator will vary, based on the
nature of the conflict, the depth of emotion and the needs of the
parties. Here are some roles we might employ within the course of
a successful mediation:
- Advisor: Assisting each party in identifying
their long-term self-interests, while clarifying goals and objectives.
- Chair: Creating an agenda and prioritizing
concerns, as a way of reaching incremental agreements.
- Consultant: Considering whether a proposal
for resolution represents the best approach, and recommending
how to fit it into future plans.
- Contractor: Asking the parties to agree
to abide by ground rules, and to contract with each other to implement
them going forward.
- Counsellor: Carefully surfacing underlying
emotions that prevent the parties from discussing their conflicts
with each other or reaching agreement.
- Educator: Teaching what the conflict
means and how it produces distrust, while answering any questions
about the process that will be used to resolve it.
- Facilitator: Assisting in conducting
joint meetings, negotiating agreements, and easing future communication
processes and relationships.
- Healer: Encouraging parties to let the
conflict go and moving each toward forgiveness and reconciliation.
- Historian: Recalling how the conflict
felt before and after collaborative negotiation, and what each
person did that could have been done better.
- Lawyer: Documenting agreements in writing
and discussing what will happen if there are future conflicts.
- Negotiator: Supporting the parties in
negotiating collaboratively with each other, perfecting offers,
reframing objections, detaching people from problems, and separating
positions from interests.
- Option Generator: Stimulating a search
for creative options for resolution that recognize everyone's
- Power Balancer: Overcoming perceived
and actual power imbalances that interfere with genuine agreement
so that each person participates fully and collaboratively in
- Resource: Providing or securing expert
opinion or access to it, clarifying factual disagreements, and
searching for criteria to resolve them.
- Role Model: Creating increased commitment
to congruent communication by listening, clarifying, summarizing,
refocusing and acknowledging a party's contributions.
- Rule-Maker: Establishing ground rules
that increase both sides' willingness to resolve their conflict.
By adopting a range of strategies and mixture of roles, it is possible
for those in conflict to move closer to resolution. As a result,
they may reach a deeper understanding of the reasons they became
stuck in the first place.
Many mediators are attracted to the word "neutral" as
a descriptive term for what they do and as the conceptual framework
for their professional role. Most experienced mediators learn early
on that the initial premise of remaining neutral — in
the classic sense of that word — is actually quite self-defeating
when faced with the realities of effectively managing conflicts.
Most mediators appreciate that — in order to develop the requisite
level of trust with each party — they must engage and validate
the perspective of each disputant. Some mediators actually resist
validating a client's thinking, fearing that the validation will
be taken or understood by the other party as agreement or favoritism
— anything but neutrality.
Many mediation strategies and techniques, while clearly useful,
are nonetheless construed by clients as violating mediator neutrality.
For example, the caucus — meeting with each party separately
— can be precarious, especially for mediators who describe
themselves as neutrals. Many fine mediators avoid caucusing
altogether, and are highly critical of those mediators who do.
Although we agree that non-caucused meetings are preferable for
any number of very good reasons, we are unwilling to eliminate any
role or tool that might be helpful for a particular family.
In the classical sense of the term "neutral," the mediator:
- will not intervene in the substance of
- is indifferent to the welfare of the
- will not attempt to alter perceived power
- is disinterested in the outcome; and
- is unconcerned with the impact of the
settlement on unrepresented parties.
We do not adhere to that classical framework.
Many people come to mediation with the preconceived notion that
a mediator is or should be just like a judge or arbitrator. Therefore,
they believe that if the mediator is neutral and disengaged, he
or she will be more objective, rational, dispassionate and unbiased.
Actually, the origins of the word "neutral" is from "neuter;"
being neither active nor passive. The opposite of "neutral"
is not "partial" or "partisan," but rather,
"involved" or "engaged."
We insist on remaining involved and engaged with our clients and
Generally speaking, while parties in conflict may think they want
a neutral, what they are really looking for is a third party
who will hear and validate their concerns. Perhaps too many mediators
seize upon neutrality as a role descriptor because the term is convenient
We prefer to think of our approach to New Jersey Divorce and Custody
Mediation as "balanced." In contrast to the more
static neutral mediator, who has no responsibility to protect either
party, a balanced mediator has the responsibility to protect both
In being balanced, the mediator has permission to question both
parties about their negotiating perspectives and inquire about any
circumstance or matter germane to an effective, resilient agreement.
In short, a mediator is not bound by the traditional narrow role
limitations of a neutral.
A lot of what we do involves asking deeply honest and empathetic
questions in order to:
- clarify each side's interests and desires;
- challenge their assumptions' and
- increase their capacity for listening
and problem solving.
In resolving conflict, it is useful to appreciate
- There can be more than one truthful "right
answer" to experiential questions;
- Two different sets of facts can both
be honestly stated and accepted as true for the person who experienced
- Unilateral declarations of truth and
falsehood are not particularly useful in resolving conflicts;
- The chances of convincing the other person
to accept your version of why they are wrong are minimal.
What is most effective in a context of mediation,
is for each side to take a risk, appreciate the other side's experience
as a source of improved perspective and increased awareness, add
their own, and try to find what they have in common.
Role of Law and Lawyers in Mediation
Mediators tend to be divided in how they approach the role of law
in mediation. Some rely heavily on what a court would decide if
the case went to trial, authoritatively suggesting that law should
be the controlling standard used to end the conflict. Other mediators,
concerned that the parties might simply defer too readily to the
law and miss the opportunity to find more creative decisions, keep
the law out of the mediation.
In our approach to New Jersey Divorce and Custody Mediation, we
welcome lawyers' participation and include our own legal perspectives
when warranted, but do not rely solely on the law. The importance
the parties give to the law is up to them.
Our goals in this respect are
- to educate the parties about the law
and possible legal outcomes and
- to support their freedom to fashion their
own creative solutions, which may differ from what a court might
In this way, the parties learn that they
can reach agreements together that respond to both their individual
interests and their common goals, while also being well informed
about their legal rights and the judicial alternatives to a mediated
This approach to the law's place in mediation draws upon lawyers'
knowledge and skills in ways both similar to and different from
their traditional roles. To participate in this negotiated problem-solving
approach to mediation requires many lawyers to shift from reliance
on a stance of adversary advocacy to one of collaborative support.
For some lawyers, this problem-solving approach can pose a challenge
— but a rewarding one. They are there to protect their clients
and inform them about the legal alternatives, while also supporting
their active participation and open dialogue.
They also participate in helping their clients design the mediation
process and in coming up with creative solutions to their conflict
that may be quite different from what a court might do.
We believe that in these ways, the lawyers and the mediation may
better serve our clients.
Choosing a Mediator
In New Jersey, there are no legal restrictions
preventing anyone from acting as mediator, nor is any license required.
Any potential consumer of mediation services should therefore be
careful to select a mediator who is right for them. Since the only
mediators permitted to impart legal opinion or perspective into
their divorce and custody mediations are New Jersey Lawyers, it
is recommended that parties select an experienced New Jersey Matrimonial
& Family Lawyer as their mediator.
If a non-attorney mediator is selected, the parties are each strongly
advised to retain their own legal counsel, both before and during
the mediation. Naturally, parties opting to use an attorney mediator
can likewise retain independent counsel to advise them during the
The role of the law in mediation is critical to the success of the
process. What you should be looking for is a mediator who is well
informed about the law or can work effectively with your lawyers
to include the relevant legal information, and at the same time
does not want the law to necessarily dictate the outcome.
Because there are many approaches to mediation, both parties should
have a clear idea about what they need from a mediator. Here are
some comments about mediation, arbitration and other ADR approaches
to resolving your case with Romanowski Law Offices:
Orientation. Mr. Romanowski became a proponent-teacher of
New Jersey Divorce & Custody Mediation — as well as other
Alternative Dispute Resolution ADR methodologies — as the direct
result of his firm conviction that citizens of a free nation should
scrupulously avoid the abdication of control and responsibility
for designing their own futures at every given opportunity.
Goals. Our overarching goals for Mediation, Progressive Divorce
and Collaborative Law are all quite similar; i.e. to use
whatever non-violent and respectful means possible in a given situation
to deliver cooperatively developed, high-quality solutions to family
Our goal for New Jersey Divorce Arbitration, both binding and non-binding,
is to provide legally sustainable, thoughtful decisions to parties
who cannot settle all of their issues cooperatively. One key advantage
of New Jersey Divorce Arbitration — which makes it more desirable
than a judicial decision — is cost containment.
Arbitration also provides the parties with the freedom to choose
the person who will be deciding their case. Needless disruption
of work schedules can also be eliminated by avoiding the necessity
of multiple court appearances. Sensitive issues, such as unreported
income, can also be addressed in Arbitration.
Required Commitment. No commitment to the mediation process
is demanded. Participation in the process must be entirely voluntary
to be effective. We will never do anything to compel parties to
stay in the mediation or in any other ADR engagement against their
will, with the sole exception of binding Arbitration of economic
issues, which involves a binding contract.
Using Consultants, Including Consulting Lawyers. Consultation
with lawyers or other technical experts is always invited. Their
level of direct involvement with the parties in the mediation process
itself varies with the requirements and dimensions of the particular
"Fact & Feeling Channel" Communications. We
believe, in handling family disputes, that the necessary level of
result-based orientation be suitably balanced with the importance
of the parties dealing with each other and in understanding what
is really at stake in the conflict. The parties must be able to
communicate directly with each other.
Out-of-Session Debates. While we will always attempt to give
our clients a balanced view that respects their primacy as decision
makers, we also caution our clients of the dangers that can arise
from dealing with each other on tough issues without someone else
present to moderate the process.
Deadlocks. Another positive attribute of mediated decision-making,
as opposed to agreements struck under the gun on the day of trial,
is that agreements can be structured without coercion. Mediation
will give the parties enough room to thoroughly explore their disagreements.
This avoids the tendency to settle for "meat-axe" style
solutions that might not last or be as mutually satisfying to the
parties as other possibilities requiring greater understanding to
If mediation reaches impasse, the parties are often counseled to
attempt other non-litigated means prior to enlisting the help of
the court. This could include Progressive Divorce, Collaborative
Law, binding or non-binding Arbitration, or any hybrid approach
well-suited to the requirements of the case. There are those situations,
unfortunately, where we will make the observation to both parties
that the case is no longer a candidate for successful resolution
apart from the court process.
"Discourage litigation. Persuade
neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how
the nominal winner is often the real loser in fees, expenses, and
a waste of time."