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No-Show Mediation: What Happens if Spouse Didn’t Attend Court-Ordered Mediation

Woman explaining reason for being late for work

Mediation can be a cost-effective, efficient, and economical pathway for resolving a divorce outside of the courtroom. New Jersey courts actually require divorcing parties to at least attempt mediation, even if it does not ultimately resolve the matter. Mediation, however, requires voluntary participation by all parties involved. What happens if your spouse decides to miss the mediation ordered by the court? Read on for a discussion of what happens when one party skips out on mediation, and call an experienced New Jersey divorce mediation attorney for assistance with a matter of New Jersey family law.

Required Mediation in New Jersey Divorce Proceedings

New Jersey courts typically require parties to a divorce to engage in mediation at certain points. Depending on the nature of the case, the court may require one or both of: (1) custody and parenting time mediation; and (2) mediation for economic issues. If the parties have minor children under the age of 18, the court will order the parties to engage in child custody mediation. The goal of child custody and parenting time mediation is to establish a mutually-agreed upon parenting plan, including both child custody and visitation. Child custody mediation will likely not involve attorneys.

New Jersey courts also require parties to attend a mandatory Early Settlement Panel, where a panel of family law attorneys will listen to the positions of each party concerning economic matters. If the parties can resolve all financial issues in the case at that time (and have resolved child custody matters), then the parties can put their final agreement into settlement papers. If there are still financial issues in dispute after the Early Settlement Panel, the court might order additional mediation with an NJ economic mediator.

Consequences for Skipping Court-Ordered Mediation

If a court orders the parties to attend mediation, then attending mediation is not voluntary. The parties might not resolve all or any issues at the mediation, but they must at least show up and make an attempt. Refusing to show up constitutes a violation of a court order. Violating a court order carries potentially severe consequences.

If one party missed the mediation session by mistake or due to an unavoidable life situation (such as a medical emergency or their car breaking down), then the parties can simply reschedule. If, however, a party deliberately skips mediation sessions, then they could face sanctions in court. The party who followed the court’s orders can petition the court for a continuance of the mediation and request sanctions for the other party’s failings. The party who skipped mediation may be held in contempt of court for violating a court order. Sanctions for violating a court order can include community service, fines, paying for the attorney fees of the other party, and even jail time. The party who skipped may have to pay for all of the mediator’s fees. The court may also resolve certain matters for the benefit of the party who followed the court’s orders as well, such as granting them certain property rights in the divorce.

Trusted Advice and Representation for Your New Jersey Divorce Mediation or Litigation

If you need experienced and effective legal help with divorce mediation, paternity, child custody, premarital agreements, child support, alimony, or other family law matters in New Jersey, contact the Union offices of family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro at 908-964-0102.

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