Teresa and Joe Giudice of Real Housewives of New Jersey fame have finally said “arrivederci” to each other and apparently settled their divorce (and as fans of the show know, this was a long time coming!). According to various news sources, the couple participated in mediation to settle their issues, as opposed to duking it out in Court. They’ve likely had enough of the legal system—the Guidices have been in the news for years for their well-documented financial and criminal troubles, which resulted in both of them receiving jail time and Joe being deported. Joe got the boot and was ordered to return to his native country, which is shaped like a boot. Take a guess.
Teresa and Joe, being public figures with likely continuing financial issues, made a wise decision to mediate their case, which will mean most, if not all, of the details will remain private. After all, their dirty laundry has already been aired enough as it is. And, if Teresa continues to have tax issues, mediation will avoid any mandatory reporting to the IRS by the Court if there were a trial.
Clients often ask whether they should participate in mediation and what the process entails. It is a good sign if parties are willing to try to amicably resolve their issues, either through mediation or with attorneys. In some cases, where the parties are wildly apart in their positions or are “high conflict”—mediation probably won’t work. It is not for every case, and that’s okay.
For a low-conflict case where the parties just need some help coming up with a workable settlement agreement, I do not discourage participation in mediation. But, there are a few things to remember:
- The mediator is not an advocate for either party and is instead there to facilitate settlement. A mediator might help the parties agree on something that is less than a party would get if he or she went to Court, or the opposite. The purpose of mediation is usually to settle as easily and quickly as possible. So, parties have to be aware that an agreement based on mediation will likely be a compromise of their respective positions.
- The parties should not agree to anything discussed in mediation, or sign anything, unless and until an attorney can provide some guidance on the terms. Even if a party does not want to retain an attorney for the divorce, that party should at least have a consult with one to see if the potential terms are fair. I have seen proposed mediated agreements that are unfair to one side on some or many issues, simply because the parties may not know any better than to ask for more or give less.
- Ideally, the mediator would not draft a resulting Marital Settlement Agreement. There is a lot of advocacy that goes into drafting Marital Settlement Agreements including language to put in or keep out. That should be done by an attorney for one of the parties, and not the mediator, if an attorney is retained for that purpose.
Hopefully, Joe and Teresa have a happier future ‘divorziato’ from each other. But, no word on whether Teresa flipped the table over during mediation.
The Family Law department at Cooper Levenson is a full-service department that has many years of experience representing clients in matters of divorce, custody, support, domestic violence, prenuptial agreements, grandparent visitation, and other family law issues. We are here to help.