In NJ, we do not elect our judges. They are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the legislature. Many other states do have elected judges (there are pluses and minuses to both systems). In Pennsylvania’s Centre County, several judicial candidates were interviewed for the local paper, the Centre Daily. Two of them had interesting things to say about the role of mediation in divorce.
Jonathan Grine: “A hearing in front of the court is inherently an adversarial process. As a result, I would be a proponent of implementing mandatory mediation with skilled and neutral mediators prior to the occurrence of a custody hearing. I believe that not only is mediation in these circumstances an opportunity for a less invasive way than litigation to solve the issues that arise in child custody, but mediation also has the opportunity to bring families together for what is in the best interests of their children rather than breaking them apart through a bitter court dispute.”
Steve Lachman: “In custody litigation, the court’s guiding light is the promotion of the best interests of the child. However, the courts are caught in the middle of two struggles. Where a child has been classified as a dependent child because of abuse, neglect, or other family problem, there is a tension between parental rights and the commonwealth’s interest in protecting the best interest of the child. In the other case, the courts are the intermediary between competing parents in a divorce action. Children are at risk of being victims in both scenarios. While delay in resolving custody may leave children in a disruptive limbo, we should not rush the process so as to wrongfully jeopardize parental rights.
“The courts can take positive actions to improve the process. In both divorce and dependency scenarios, increased use of guardians ad litem can assure the interest of the child is represented. In divorces, mediation may help forge common ground between the parents.”