1:40-5. Mediation in Family Part Matters
(a) Mediation of Custody and Parenting Time Actions
(1) Screening and Referral. All complaints or motions involving a custody or parenting time issue shall be screened to determine whether the issue is genuine and substantial, and if such a determination is made, the matter shall be referred to mediation for resolution in the child’s best interests. However, no matter shall be referred to mediation if there is in effect a preliminary or final order of domestic violence entered pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 et seq.). In matters involving domestic violence in which no order has been entered or in cases involving child abuse or sexual abuse, the custody or parenting time issues shall be referred to mediation provided that the issues of domestic violence, child abuse or sexual abuse shall not be mediated in the custody mediation process. The mediator or either party may petition the court for removal of the case from mediation based upon a determination of good cause.
(2) Conduct of Mediation. In addition to the general requirements of Rule 1:40-4, the parties shall be required to attend a mediation orientation program and may be required to attend an initial mediation session. Mediation sessions shall be closed to the public. The mediator and the parties should consider whether it is appropriate to involve the child in the mediation process. The mediator or either party may terminate a mediation session in accordance with the provisions of Rule 1:40-4(h).
(3) Mediator Not to Act as Evaluator. The mediator may not subsequently act as an evaluator for any court-ordered report nor make any recommendation to the court respecting custody and parenting time.
(b) Mediation of Economic Aspects of Dissolution Actions.
(1) Referral to ESP. The CDR program of each vicinage shall include a post-Early Settlement Panel (ESP) program for the mediation of the economic aspects of dissolution actions or for the conduct of a post-ESP alternate Complementary Dispute Resolution (CDR) event consistent with the provisions of this rule and R. 5:5-6. However, no matter shall be referred to mediation if a temporary or final restraining order is in effect in the matter pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 et seq.).
(2) Designation of Mediator of Economic Aspects of Family Law Matters. A credentials committee comprised of representatives from the Supreme Court Committee on Complementary Dispute Resolution shall be responsible for reviewing and approving all mediator applications. Applicants must complete an application form posted on the Judiciary’s Internet web site (www.judiciary.state.nj.us or www.njcourtsonline.com). Mediators who meet the training requirements set forth in this rule, and any other approved criteria developed by the Family Court Programs Subcommittee of the Committee on Complementary Dispute Resolution shall be added to the Roster of Approved Mediators. The roster shall be maintained by the Administrative Office of the Courts and shall be posted on the Judiciary’s Internet web site.
(3) Exchange of Information. In mediation of economic aspects of Family actions, parties are required to provide accurate and complete information to the mediator and to each other, including but not limited to tax returns, Case Information Statements, and appraisal reports. The court may, in the Mediation Referral Order, stay discovery and set specific times for completion of mediation.
(4) Timing of Referral. Parties shall be referred to economic mediation or other alternate CDR event following the unsuccessful attempt to resolve their issues through ESP . At the conclusion of the ESP process, parties shall be directed to confer with appropriate court staff to expedite the referral to economic mediation in accordance with the following procedures:
A. Parties may conference with the judge or the judge’s designee.
B. Court staff shall explain the program to the parties and/or their attorneys.
C. Parties shall be provided with the roster of approved mediators for selection.
D. After a mediator has been selected, court staff shall attempt immediate contact to secure the mediator’s acceptance and the date of initial appointment. If court staff is unable to contact the mediator for confirmation, the order of referral shall state that the mediator and the date of initial appointment remain tentative until confirmation is secured. Staff will attempt to confirm within 24 hours and send an amended order to the parties and/or their attorneys.
E. If a mediator notifies the court that he or she cannot take on any additional cases, court staff will so advise the parties at the time of selection so that an alternate mediator can be selected.
F. The court shall enter an Economic Mediation Referral Order stating the name of the mediator, listing the financial documents to be shared between the parties and with the mediator, indicating the allocation of compensation by each party if mediation extends beyond the initial two hours, stating the court’s expectation that the parties will mediate in good faith, defining the mediation time frame, and identifying the next court event and the date of that event.
G. The referral order, signed by the judge, shall be provided to the parties before they leave the courthouse. Amended orders with confirmed appointments shall be faxed to the parties and/or their attorneys the next day, replacing the tentative orders.
H. If the parties are unable to agree upon and select a mediator, the judge will appoint one. Staff shall then follow the above procedures as applicable.
I. Referral to economic mediation shall be recorded in the Family Automated Case Tracking System (FACTS).
(5) Adjournments. Adjournment of events in the mediation process shall be determined by the mediator after conferring with the parties and/or attorneys, provided that any such adjournment will not result in the case exceeding the return date to the court. If an adjournment would cause delay of the return date to the court, a written adjournment request must be made to the judge who has responsibility for the case or the judge’s designee.