FAQ

What is Mediation?
Why Mediate?
Is Mediation an appropriate process for every divorcing couple?
Do I still need an attorney?
How long does the mediation process take?
How often will we meet?
Why do we require full financial disclosure?
Is there any time when the mediators could decide to stop the mediation process?
What happens if we reach an impasse?
What is a parenting plan?
What is alimony?
What is child support?
When does child support end?
What is the difference between joint legal custody and sole custody?
What are grounds for divorce?
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a process for resolving disputes between/among two or more parties in which a person acts as a mediator to facilitate the resolution of the dispute(s). A mediator is a process-orientated person who has no vested interest in the outcome. In divorce mediation, the final product is a Memorandum of Understanding, in which all of the agreements are memorialized. The Memorandum of Understanding is drafted by the mediator and reviewed by the divorcing parties. The parties take the Memorandum of Understanding to their respective attorneys for review.
Why Mediate?
Mediation is quicker and costs less than litigation. Mediation is a private and thus confidential process. The mediation process is less stressful on the two of you and especially on your children, which makes it easier to maintain post-divorce relationships, especially for the benefit of the children. In mediation the two of you work out your agreement with the aid of a mediator. Historically, mediated agreements are far more durable than those settled through litigation.
Is Mediation an appropriate process for every divorcing couple?
Certain cases are inappropriate for mediation. Examples may be where there has been a history of domestic violence or where one of the parties seems unable to express his or her wants and needs.
Do I still need an attorney?
We recommend that each party consult with an attorney during the mediation process. During the mediation, your attorney will counsel you on matters related to the law and your specific rights under the law. At the end of the mediation, the mediator will draft a Memorandum of Understanding, which you will take to your respective attorneys for review. The attorney representing the party who will actually file for the divorce will convert the Memorandum of Understanding into appropriate format as a Property Settlement Agreement for review by the other party’s attorney. The property Settlement Agreement forms the basis upon which the divorce will ultimately be filed and granted.
How long does the mediation process take?
We normally meet in two hour sessions. The number of sessions required for the divorce mediation process varies widely. The complexity of parenting and financial matters to be resolved and your ability to put aside your hurt and anger to focus on your future and the future of your children will have an effect on the total number of sessions. Generally, it takes between three and six sessions to complete the process. Some couples are able to resolve parts of their disputes by themselves between sessions.
How often will we meet?
Normally we plan to have an interval of at least two weeks between mediation sessions to give each of you time to re-examine all of the agreements made to date, obtain counsel from your respective attorneys and gather additional information if needed.
Why do we require full financial disclosure?
There are basically two parts to a Memorandum of Understanding. One is a parenting plan and the other is financial. Both you and your spouse need to have a clear picture of all your financial information in order for the two of you to make informed decisions.
Is there any time when the mediators could decide to stop the mediation process?
Mediation is a voluntary process. The parties themselves may choose to terminate the mediation process. A mediator may terminate the process if the mediator feels that one or both of the parties is not negotiating in good faith or if one or both of the parties is withholding financial or other information critical to the negotiation, or if one of the parties is unable to effectively enter into the negotiation process.
What happens if we reach an impasse?
If we reach an impasse, we take a break, give ourselves time to review the agreements made to date and take a more objective look at the impasse. Sometimes we go on to other subjects and leave resolving the impasse to a subsequent meeting. If, at the end, all but one or two issues have been resolved, then the unresolved issues may have to be litigated, but that is very rare.
What is a parenting plan?
A parenting plan is a plan that you and your spouse develop in mediation to divide the parenting responsibilities between the two of you. It includes the specific schedule that you agree upon for routine parenting that is when your child or children will be with each of you. Previously this was called a visitation schedule. It also covers holidays, vacations and special days like birthdays, Mothers Day and Fathers Day, etc. It is as detailed as you and your spouse believe necessary. And it can be changed as circumstances change, such as the social and independence needs of the children increase, especially in their teenage years. A parenting plan is very beneficial to the children because it gives them a schedule of what to expect, which parent they will be with and when. It keeps the children out of the process of being used as conduits as their parents discuss and agree upon modifications in the parenting plan.
What is alimony?

The law establishes guidelines for judges to follow when determining limited-duration alimony, based on the length of the marriage or civil union:• If the couple was together for five years or less, the term of alimony would be a maximum of half the number of months of the marriage or civil union.

• If the duration of the relationship was between five and 10 years, the term of alimony would be a maximum of 60 percent of the number of months of the marriage or civil union.

• For a marriage or civil union that lasted between 10 and 15 years, the term of alimony would a maximum of 70 percent of the number of months of the relationship.

• If the marriage or civil union lasted 15 to 20 years, that amount would be a maximum of 80 percent of the number of months of the relationship.

• For a marriage or civil union that lasts 20 or more, the judge would have discretion to award alimony for an indefinite period of time.”

The old permanent alimony extended beyond normal retirement. But the new law states that Alimony payments would terminate when the payer reaches full retirement age or becomes eligible for retirement benefits under the Social Security Act. Judges, however, would be allowed to order alimony to continue if the recipient can prove by clear and convincing evidence that continued payments are necessary. “Alimony payments would terminate when the payer reaches full retirement age or becomes eligible for retirement benefits under the Social Security Act. Judges, however, would be allowed to order alimony to continue if the recipient can prove by clear and convincing evidence that continued payments are necessary.”

These are major changes.

Here’s the complete article. The governor signed the law in September.

The New Jersey Assembly on Thursday passed legislation that would drastically alter how alimony is awarded in divorce cases.

The combined bill, A-845/971/1649, would, if enacted, eliminate permanent alimony in most cases and give judges and practitioners a set of factors to follow to determine how long alimony can be awarded and when alimony payments can be stopped or terminated.

The bill passed in a 75-0 vote several hours after the Assembly Judiciary Committee recommended passage.

“We’ve reached a point where both sides are satisfied,” said one of the chief sponsors, Assemblyman Charles Mainor, D-Hudson, referring to groups who want the changes made and those who wanted the system to remain the same. “Our current alimony laws are ancient.”

Mainor told the committee that he and the other sponsors have been working with interest groups and the New Jersey State Bar Association for 2½ years to craft the legislation.

“The bill offers predictability to both sides” in a divorce action, said another of the sponsors, Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, D-Camden.

Changes called for in the bill are prospective and would not apply to divorce settlements or orders already in effect.

In any case in which a party asks for alimony, a judge would be required under the bill to issue a written ruling explaining his or her analysis of relevant factors in determining whether there should or should not be an award of alimony.

If the marriage or civil union lasts less than 20 years, alimony would not exceed the length of the relationship, but for exceptional circumstances.

In addition to the factors already in the statute, judges would have to consider the ages of the parties when they were married and when the relationship ended, the need for separate homes, the ability of both parties to maintain a standard of living, the dependency of one party on the other, whether one party has particular health issues and other relevant issues.

Judges would be allowed to suspend or terminate limited-duration alimony if the recipient establishes a cohabitation relationship. A judge could order alimony to be resumed if the cohabitation ends, but could not extend it beyond the original termination date.

In cases of cohabitation, judges would have to analyze, among other factors, the cohabitants’ joint finances, recognition of the relationship in the couple’s social and family circle, duration of the relationship and sharing of household chores. A judge would not be able to reject a claim of cohabitation solely on the grounds that the couple does not live together on a full-time basis.

The bill says alimony payments may be modified or terminated when they payer reaches full retirement age. Judges, however, would be allowed to order alimony to continue if the recipient can demonstrate through a series of factors that alimony should be continued.

Reimbursement alimony would not be allowed to be modified.

The bill would give greater authority to modify alimony awards if the payer becomes unemployed involuntarily or sees a dramatic change in his or her financial circumstances. A payer who loses his or her job would be allowed to apply for a modification in payments after being unemployed for a minimum of 90 days.

Work on the bill began in earnest on May 9 after Judiciary Chairman John McKeon, D-Morris, met with the interest groups in an effort to get it passed before the summer recess.

Jeralyn Lawrence, the chair of the State Bar Association’s Family Law Section, said she, the sponsors and representatives of other interest groups drafted the bill’s final version on Wednesday. It was an amalgamation of five different bills that had been proposed.

Lawrence, of Bridgewater’s Norris McLaughlin & Marcus, said language that tied the duration of alimony to the number of years of the marriage or civil union was taken out and replaced with the rebuttable assumption that alimony would end when the payer reaches retirement age.

There was, she said, a great deal of give and take in the days leading up to the committee’s vote. “Nobody got 100 percent of what they wanted,” Lawrence said.

Two members of the Judiciary Committee—Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, R-Bergen, and Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, R-Morris—expressed some doubt about voting on a major piece of legislation that they had received only minutes before the meeting began. They agreed to support it, however, after receiving assurances from the various interest groups that the legislation was acceptable.

Read more: http://www.njlawjournal.com/id=1202661000396/Major-Overhaul-of-Alimony-System-Is-Approved-by-NJ-Assembly#ixzz3G3HnuDPU

What is child support?
Normally when we hear of child support, we only hear about the amount that one parent pays to the other parent. In fact, child support is the responsibility of both parents. One parent, normally the primary residential parent, is actually responsible for paying the children’s day to day expenses, for which she or he receives support from the other parent. In New Jersey, the amount of child support is based on 10 factors: needs of the child; standard of living and circumstances of each parent; all sources of income and assets of each parent; earning ability of each parent; need and capacity of the child for education, including higher education; age and health of the child; responsibility of the parent(s) for court-ordered support of others; reasonable debts and liabilities of each child and parent; and any other factors the court may deem relevant. The NJ Supreme Court mandated Child Support Guidelines for computing minimum child support. Child support is normally recalculated at least once every three years. Child support is not tax deductible for the person paying it and is not taxable to the one receiving it.
When does child support end?
Child support ends for each child when that child is emancipated. By definition, emancipation means that the parents are no longer financially responsible for that child. There is no fixed time when emancipation must occur in New Jersey. It may be as early as the child’s 18th birthday and graduation from high school, or it may be as late as completion of a college education, entry into the armed forces or marriage.
What is the difference between joint legal custody and sole custody?

Sole custody is where one parent, normally the primary residential parent, can unilaterally make all decisions related to the children’s health, safety, education and welfare.

Joint legal custody requires that both parents confer and agree upon major decisions affecting the children’s health, safety, education and welfare. However, minor decisions and decisions taken in emergency situations are usually the responsibility of the poarent with whom the children are with at the time.

What are grounds for divorce?
Under New Jersey Statute 2A:34-2 – there are nine causes for divorce, commonly called grounds. They are: irreconcilable differences; adultery; willful and continued desertion; extreme cruelty (mental or physical); separation for a period of at least 18 months (no fault); drug addiction or habitual drunkenness; institutionalization for mental illness; imprisonment for 18 months; or deviant sexual behavior. Irreconcilable differences is the most common cause.