In New Jersey, mediation is widely regarded as a positive alternative to traditional divorce litigation. The Arbitration Law Review notes that mediation promotes communication, reduces hostility and makes the divorce a less stressful experience for children. It also typically costs less than litigating the divorce.
Same-sex couples may reap these benefits, and there are other positive aspects of mediation that may also prove beneficial. Because there may be factors that affect the dissolution of the marriage that began before marriage became legal in New Jersey in 2013, the court may not have precedent to deal with these issues.
For example, perhaps a same-sex couple entered into a committed monogamous relationship in 1998, entered into a domestic partnership in 2004, and then married when the option became available in 2013. Since 1998, one spouse has been making contributions to a retirement account. Are the contributions between 1998 and 2004 considered marital property, or only those made since 2013? A mediator may be able to help the couple come to a fair agreement on matters that could become costly in a court battle.
Another issue that may arise due to the length of the relationship versus the length of the marriage is whether alimony is appropriate. According to NJ.com, New Jersey law states that alimony may not last longer than the length of the marriage if the marriage has lasted fewer than 20 years. If left to a judge, open durational alimony may not be an option, which may cause significant hardship for a spouse who gave up career opportunities to the benefit of the relationship.
It is important to note that mediation may not be helpful if the relationship involved substance abuse or violence.