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Posted by attorney Bruce Matez

Divorce is an inevitable fact in our society today. Statistics tell us that almost 50% of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. Many people believe that divorce destroys families. Divorce itself does not destroy families; it is the way spouses divorce that tears families apart. Children of divorce suffer mostly because their parents stop talking to each other, stop co-parenting in any cooperative or respectful manner, and stop caring about each other. Divorce changes the family dymanics emotionally, residentially, financially, and otherwise, but it need not destroy the family in the process. There is a better way!

Over 98% of all divorces in New Jersey settle before trial. Cases settle for many reasons; some because the parties truly want to resolve their differences and issues in a respectful and amicable manner, some to get it done as quickly and inexpensively as possible, some because the threat of a trial is too financially and emotionally overwhelming and burdensome, and others just plainly give in and give up after months (and sometimes years) of litigating through the court system. Settlement is often achieved late in the divorce litigation process, after months or years of emotionally harrowing litigation which leaves the parties on the brink of financial ruin from spending tens of thousands of dollars (or more) on legal fees. Litigation often requires several court appearances, missed time from work and family obligations, and involves vicious mud-slinging, accusations, interference in parent/child relationships, causes stress/strain and sometimes failure in parent/child relationships, generally a complete and disastrous breakdown in communication between parents, and a complete and even more disastrous elimination of any level of respect between them. More interestingly, the resulting resolution is often the same resolution that could have been achieved without the expense of litigation. There is a better way!

Mediation and Collaborative Divorce are alternative methods of resolving issues in a divorce. Both provide divorcing spouses with a safe, fair, non-adversarial setting in which to explore settlement options and work toward a fair and amicable resolution without all of the emotional turmoil, time and expense of litigation. They result in self-determination of the divorcing husband and wife. Instead of talking through their lawyers, mediation and Collaborative Divorce provide divorcing couples with a safe environment in which to talk to each other. Mediation and Collaborative Divorces are generally far less expensive than traditional litigation (sometimes by less than half the cost), and allow people to resolve their issues in a mutually respectful and less acrimonious manner. Both methods allow divorcing couples to engage all necessary non-legal professionals (financial advisors, accountants, forensic accountants, mental health professionals, child specialists, etc.) in the process to assist them. Animosity, accusations, nastiness, “mud slinging" are all hopefully excluded from the process, although highly charged emotions and reactions often do occur. However they are more easily and effectively managed than in litigation.

Mediation is the process in which a divorcing couple engages a trained and qualified divorce mediator to assist them in working toward resolution of the issues between them related to their divorce. The mediator facilitates the process, directs the exchange of documentation and information, and facilitates the discussions and negotiations. Mediation can include lawyers or involve just the spouses themselves.

Collaborative Divorce offers divorcing couples the security of having independent attorneys advise them, advocate on their individual behalf, and conduct the necessary exchange of documentation and information (discovery) in a non-litigious, non-adversarial and mutually respectful process. The spouses, their attorneys, and other professionals involved sign a participation agreement wherein they pledge not to litigate in court. If either spouse withdraws from the collaborative process and pursues litigation through the court, none of the professionals involved in the collaborative process may participate in any way in the litigation in court. The attorneys and spouses, and other professionals engaged by them, meet together in a series of conferences (often called four-way conferences). Goals of the spouses are set forth at the outset and revisited and reiterated throughout the process. Decisions are made together in the best interests of the family as a whole. Ultimately the goal of Collaborative Divorce is to allow the parties to reach a resolution of the issues in their divorce in an informed, amicable, non-litigious, less expensive, and mutually respectful setting through the assistance of their attorneys who advocate for them, as well as other professionals.

Save your hard earned money for your future; save it for your children’s college education; save it for a vacation or a new car. Save your family from additional and unnecessary stress, anxiety, and emotional turmoil. Choose Mediation or Collaborative Divorce for a better future. THERE IS A BETTER WAY!

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