Divorce Mediation of New Jersey, LLC

5 Auer Court, Building 5, Suite A

East Brunswick, NJ 08816


Located in Williamsburg Commons


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Mediating your divorce

Dealing with the Children while mediating your divorce

Keeping your sanity while mediating your divorce


By David C. Barry, Esq.

Whether you have already decided to pursue divorce mediation or simply wish to learn more about it, it makes sense to understand how you can make the process more successful for both you and your spouse. At Divorce Mediation of New Jersey, LLC (Divorce Mediation of New Jersey), our training and experience in mediating divorces has helped us identify practical, common sense steps that will help you and your spouse achieve a successful mediation, whether you mediate with us or elsewhere:

1. Take Ownership of Your Divorce: This means that you and your spouse will resist the temptation of taking the “easy” (but often very costly, lengthy and emotionally destructive) path by turning over your divorce to dueling lawyers and a judge. It means that you and your spouse will choose – for the sake of your children, the financial assets you’ve worked hard to acquire, and your respect for yourself and each other – to address the necessary issues together, with the help of an experienced mediator.

At Divorce Mediation of New Jersey, we help guide you on that journey. We work hard to understand your needs and priorities, and then work with you to create a custom-tailored divorce agreement that reflects them. It is a divorce process that you control.

2. Find Common Ground: Think about and talk with each other about what your goals are, both with respect to the divorce and life after divorce. You will likely find many shared goals, such as taking care of the children, communicating with each other in a civil manner and respecting each other’s privacy. Ending your marriage does not have to mean ending your friendship or preclude building a new, different kind of relationship. This simple step will help maximize good will and minimize fear and suspicion. It will also help your mediated divorce move towards finalization more quickly and with less cost.

3. Develop a Clear Parenting Plan: The two of you may be getting divorced, but you will still have a relationship with each other as parents of your children. How do you want that relationship to work? Will it be one in which the children are pawns and forced to choose one parent over another? Will it be one in which the children are allowed to “play” one parent off the other? We believe the better path to be one in which Mom and Dad have cooperatively designed a parenting plan and have agreed upon how decisions regarding their childrens’ health, education, religious upbringing and other needs will be addressed.

At Divorce Mediation of New Jersey, we’re parents too! We understand not just the theory, but the reality of parenting children in today’s world. We know what it is like to balance the demands of work and parenting. We know what sneakers cost, summer camp costs and college costs. We use this real world perspective to help you identify the needs of your children and how to develop a parenting plan that works well for both of you.

4. Identify and Think About Your Assets: Divorce involves the distribution of a couple’s assets. You should create, together if possible, as detailed a list as possible of your property. Property includes everything each of you owns – real estate, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, pensions, insurance, automobiles, personal belongings, etc. Identify those that are owned jointly and those owned separately. Ideally, you will come to mediation with some sense of how these assets should be divided between you.

When you become a Divorce Mediation of New Jersey client, we provide you with worksheets that help make the task of identifying your assets and liabilities easier. We use this as a springboard to help you think creatively about how to divide them.

5. Identify and Think About Your Liabilities: Liabilities also get distributed in divorce. Make a list of all the debts you owe, both individually and jointly. For most couples, this includes various credit card bills, mortgages, insurance payments and car payments, to name a few. Ideally, you will come to mediation of how these too should be divided between you.

6. Create an Accurate Household Budget: A household budget is something all of us should have under any circumstances, but most of us don’t. When contemplating a divorce, it is essential. First, on the left side of a sheet of paper, create a list of the income that comes into the household. Income is money received, regardless of the source. It typically comes in the form of paychecks, but sometimes in the form of investments, dividends, retirement benefits, etc. Recent tax returns, college financial aid applications and pay stubs can be helpful sources of this information. Next, on the right side of the sheet, write down where the money goes each month. These typically include regular monthly expenses (mortgage/rent, utilities, food, insurance payments, car payments, credit card payments, etc.) and periodic expenses (clothing, medical costs, dental bills, home repair costs). You have just created a snapshot of where you are now from a budget standpoint.

Divorce Mediation of New Jersey clients receive a household budget worksheet to help make this process easier. The information on it helps us help you gain insight into the financial issues that will need to be addressed in the divorce.

7. Think Realistically About the Post Divorce Lifestyle Each of You Can Afford: It takes more money to run two households than it does one. As such, income needs to increase or household costs need to be decreased, or a combination of the two needs to take place. This is easy to say, but often hard to do. Using the household budget discussed above, think about the financial needs and resources that will be available to meet those needs. For most couples, the question of how will the bills get paid is the most challenging one.

We sometimes come to the conclusion, after reviewing the financial information provided and speaking our clients, that they would be greatly benefited by speaking with another professional – a financial planner, CPA, valuation expert, etc. Divorce Mediation of New Jersey maintains a list of “mediation friendly” experts who will work with our clients, at reasonable cost, to provide the insight that is needed.

8. Identify Pre-Divorce Ground Rules: The two of you created and lived by certain rules, spoken or unspoken, while you were married (e.g., no company on weeknights, the rent gets paid before we spend money on entertainment, etc.) You did so because they were essential to having a relationship that worked. Divorcing couples likewise need to agree upon rules to help them have a relationship that works while they are in the process of divorcing. Often these have to do with relationships with the children (discussing or not discussing the divorce in front of them, not talking badly about the other in front of them, etc.), domestic arrangements (will you stay in the same house? Who sleeps where?), and financial matters (Joint agreement on purchases or expenditures over a certain limit, how to pay for the mediator, investment decisions, etc.). Once you’ve identified the “ground rules” you think are important, discuss them with you’re spouse.

At Divorce Mediation of New Jersey, we can help you identify, discuss and reach agreement on the ground rules that each of you feels is important to govern your pre-divorce life. For many couples, such agreement removes a great deal of the stress and anxiety from the process and helps life work much better for all concerned.

9. Be Good to Yourself: Divorce is one of life’s most stressful events. It takes its toll on us in various ways, including our mental well-being and our physical health. Be aware of this. Make efforts to eat properly, sleep well and exercise regularly. Don’t fall into the trap of withdrawal from family and friends, depression or substance abuse. Try to retain your sense of humor. Choose to see the glass as half-full. Consider whether you might benefit from counseling.

At Divorce Mediation of New Jersey, we encourage our clients to consider and seek out appropriate counseling either for themselves or their children during the divorce process. If requested, we can provide the names of local, well-qualified counselors or other appropriate resources.

10. Be Good to Each Other: How we treat our spouse usually has a direct bearing on how they will treat us. This principal works during marriage and during divorce. Resist the temptation to treat each other badly. Instead, choose at the outset to be civil, generous, and respectful towards each other. This pays enormous dividends for each of you when it comes time to reach agreement on the terms of your divorce.

At Divorce Mediation of New Jersey, we caution our clients to resist the “Greek Chorus” of often well- intentioned friends, co-workers and relatives who will advise you to “go for the jugular” and “get a real shark for a lawyer.” They don’t know you, they don’t know you’re situation, and usually, they just don’t know what they’re talking about. Instead, we challenge our clients to believe in and trust in their own basic decency and fairness and that of their spouse. Based on our experience with helping couples mediate their divorce, we truly believe it is the better way.

This and other helpful information relating to divorce mediation may be found at www.smarterdivorce.com, home of Divorce Mediation of New Jersey, LLC.

Copyright © 2005 David C. Barry. All rights reserved.

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by David C. Barry, Esq.

1. Remember That It’s Your Mediation, Not Theirs: Just like you didn’t share every up and down in your marriage with your children, you don’t need to share every twist and turn of your divorce mediation with them. Of course, the children should be advised, in age-appropriate terms, of the changes that will directly impact them. Above all, they should know that Mom and Dad will always love them and will always take care of them.

2. Don’t Criticize Each Other In Front Of The Children: Children deserve the opportunity to have strong, positive relationships with each of their parents. Criticizing your spouse in front of them will only cause them needless confusion and anxiety. Ultimately, that hurts the children as well as their relationships.

3. Don’t Use The Children As Messengers: Sure, they are convenient, often effective and often very willing means by which to transfer information to your spouse without having to face them. Resist this urge! If you have difficulty communicating with your spouse, use your mediator, your lawyer or your therapist – not your children. Remember, they are the product of the love you once had for one another. They should not be made into messengers or pawns.

4. You Are Still A Family: It is very easy for children, especially young ones, to believe that their parents’ divorce means that they are no longer part of a family. You need to reassure them that this is not the case. They need to understand that although Mom and Dad may not be married to one another, they are and always will be part of a family, and that Mom and Dad will always be their Mom and Dad. They need to understand that the details have changed, but the love, caring and commitment remain the same.

5. They Didn’t Cause The Divorce: Children need to understand that Mom and Dad’s decision to divorce has nothing to do with them. It is not the result of anything they did or didn’t do. It’s not about them, it’s about the two of you.

6. They Can’t Stop The Divorce: Sometimes children, especially younger children, harbor a reconciliation fantasy in which their actions lead Mom and Dad to get back together. You need to help them understand that your divorce is not something they have power over.

7. Identify Their Emotions and Concerns: Talk with your children, together if possible, about their emotions and concerns regarding your divorce. Try to make if feel safe and o.k. for them to talk about their feelings, which may be sad, angry or confusing. Make sure to be ready to listen when they are ready to talk about it. Stay tuned in, stay accessible to them.

8. It’s Not What You Say, It’s What You Do: Children are usually smarter than we give them credit for. They sometimes listen to what we say, but usually pay closer attention to what we do. If they see Mom and Dad acting civilly towards each other, speaking about each other in positive, respectful ways, and willing to be flexible, compromising and communicative with each, they will feel less insecure about the divorce mediation process. As grown ups, this ball is in our court.

9. Get Them Appropriate Help: A world of resource exists out there to assist children (and parents) with the emotions and processes of divorce. These include school-based counselors, child counselors, support groups, internet-based resources and the like. If you are to err, err on the side of having your child take advantage of these resources.

10. Keep Things In Perspective: Millions upon millions of Americans living today are the product of divorces during their childhood. Perhaps you were one of them. The vast majority of them get through their parents’ divorces without long-term ill effect. The odds of this good that your children will do so as well. The fact that you and your spouse have chosen divorce mediation over divorce litigation, and have thus chosen to make your divorce process faster, more cooperative and less acrimonious, substantially improves these odds.

This and other helpful information relating to divorce mediation may be found at www.smarterdivorce.com, home of Divorce Mediation of New Jersey, LLC.

Copyright © 2005 David C. Barry. All rights reserved.

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By David C. Barry Esq.

Divorce mediation is, for most couples, a superior alternative to divorce litigation. While it is a far less stressful process than typical divorce litigation, it is not a stress- free process. Here are some common sense steps you and your spouse can take to help minimize that stress while you are mediating your divorce:

1. Agree on How, When and Where to Disagree: It would be strange for a happily married couple not to have disagreements on at least an occasional basis, much less a divorcing couple. Couples that are divorcing, however, often have communication problems, making it difficult for one or both of them to express their point of view in a clear and constructive manner. If this is true in your marriage, consider adopting some ground rules for when, where and how you will have your disagreements.

There are many examples of such ground rules. Agree that when it is clear that your disagreement is becoming heated that you will simply stop, and that it will be raised with your mediator (or therapist or clergy member or other third party you agree upon). Agree that neither one of you will raise your voice or shout, and that if you do, the other will stop the discussion.

2. Give Each Other Space: Each of you will need your own space in which to feel safe and to have some privacy. You should try to agree on each of you having such a private room in your house or apartment, and agree that neither of you will enter the other’s room without specific permission. Respecting the other’s space and solitude will lead to their respect for your space and solitude. It is a good way to promote healing.

3. Respect Each Other’s Privacy: Don’t open each other’s mail. Don’t pry into each other’s e-mail, computer files or internet history. Don’t follow one another. Don’t try to monitor the other’s comings and goings, communications with friends or dating. The best way to make sure that you enjoy the opportunity to create new friends, new relationships and a new lifestyle while you are getting divorced is to respect your spouses’ right to do so.

4. Respect Your Children and Other Loved Ones: One of the advantages of divorce mediation over divorce litigation is that it can spare children and other loved ones from being caught in the “cross-fire” of litigation. Don’t squander that great advantage! Agree at the outset that the children will not be the messengers between you. Agree at the outset that you won’t argue in front of them. Agree at the outset that you won’t do anything or say anything that will make them feel the need to “choose sides” or qualify their love for either of you. To the contrary, agree with each other on the steps you will take to make sure the children know that you each still love them; that you will each still be their parents and that while the two of you will no longer be married, that the two of you will always be their family.

5. Don’t “Let the Games Begin”: Sooner or later, you or your spouse will be tempted to play “games” with one another out of anger, frustration or just plain silliness. It is critical that you resist that temptation. If you don’t, your spouse might start also playing games and the gamesmanship can quickly escalate from the merely petty to the truly destructive. What will be lost in the process is time, money, and the remaining respect and good will you have for each other that is keeping your divorce from the greater expense, delay and emotional destructiveness of divorce litigation. In short, by choosing divorce mediation, you’ve chosen to take the high road. Stay on it. The alternatives are just not worth it.

6. Don’t “Break The Bank”: Try to compose and agree upon a list of your assets and debts, so that each of you has an accurate picture of your finances. (You will need this for your mediation process anyway). Agree on what bills need to be paid, who will pay them and when. Agree on no new purchases or expenditures above a certain amount, unless the two of you agree in advance. Agree that assets will not be moved without prior agreement. Agree that all financial records will be shared with each other immediately upon request. Try to agree upon a realistic interim budget for both of you until your divorce is finalized.

7. Identify and Use Your Emotional and Spiritual Resources: Even under ideal circumstances, divorce can be an emotionally and spiritually draining time. Resist the urge to withdraw and to “tough it out on your own.” Think about your emotional and spiritual support network. Most of us have them. It can be one or more of the following: your friends that are good listeners, your trusted family members, your spiritual advisor, your therapist or physician, etc. The internet is filled with wonderful resources, including online forums and chat groups for people going through similar situations as yourself. If you are a person of faith, this might be a good time to try to reconnect with your faith. If you have always wanted to try meditation or yoga, this might be a good time to experiment with it.

8. Stay Calm: Although divorce mediation is usually much faster than divorce litigation, the process is more like a marathon than a sprint. You have to pace yourself. Understand the process takes time. In time, you and your spouse will come to an agreement that is acceptable to the two of you. This perspective will help you resist the urge to counter every one of your spouses’ thrusts with a parry, every one of their threats with a counter threat of your own. Stay calm. Keep your eye on the ball.

9. The “T” Word: Experience has taught me that the single most important factor that enables a couple to reach agreement and move through the divorce mediation process quickly is their trust in one another. The decision to divorce usually deals a great blow to the trust that once existed between the couple. For the divorce mediation process to work well, that trust needs to be nurtured, built up or recreated. This doesn’t happen overnight. It is the result of many little acts, such as being open and honest about financial records, respecting each other’s privacy, treating one another with civility, keeping appointments with each other, etc.

10. Stay Optimistic: During the divorce mediation process, it is easy to focus only on the negative aspects of divorce and the challenges it involves. Don’t lose sight of the positive aspects. These include the opportunity to begin a new life, to pursue new interests, grow in new directions, begin new relationships – in short, to create a new, better you. Begin to plan that life now. Remember that, if you choose it, the best of life can still lie ahead of you.

This and other helpful information relating to divorce mediation may be found at www.smarterdivorce.com, home of Divorce Mediation of New Jersey, LLC.

Copyright © 2005 David C. Barry. All rights reserved.

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