Discuss with Our Family Lawyers the Advantages of the Early Settlement Panel in a Divorce Process in NJ
Learn how an Early Settlement Panel can be a helpful tool for mediating a divorce in New Jersey.
The process of divorce in New Jersey is a taxing one. Couples who have a respectful relationship with one another are likely to move through the divorce proceedings – which in New Jersey include the equitable distribution of assets, determination of spousal support if required, child custody when children are involved in the divorce, and child support payments – fairly swiftly and without too much back-and-forth requiring expert facilitation. However, not every divorce is amicable. Medium- to high-conflict divorces can cause the proceedings to drag out for many additional months, exacerbating expenses, stress levels, and exhaustion.
For couples who are able to collaborate in a respectful way during divorce but have been unable to reach a divorce settlement alone, the Early Settlement Panel is a helpful strategy to reach an agreement without costly litigation. Explore with our Divorce & Family Lawyers what a Matrimonial Early Settlement Panel (ESP) is and how this process can be advantageous for your divorce.
The Early Settlement Panel Program in NJ
A couple that has reached a divorce settlement agreement through facilitation by their family law attorneys or another divorce mediator will present the settlement agreement to the Family Part Court for approval. If they have been unable to come to an agreement, the Court will refer them to an Early Settlement Panel for continued mediation in service of avoiding litigation.
Panelists include experienced family law attorneys. These lawyers work pro-bono to support the Court in helping couples reach a divorce settlement agreement without ending up in litigation.
Purpose of the NJ Matrimonial Early Settlement Process
As noted above, the Early Settlement Process is a Court-mandated divorce mediation process that attempts to support couples in coming to a divorce settlement without having to go into a lengthy litigation. The Early Settlement Panel process is mutually beneficial for couples and the Court because litigation backs up the availability of Court judges to attend to other important matters regarding the welfare of New Jersey citizens, including children.
Because couples who have been referred to the ESP program are required to participate, they can face financial penalties if they do not appear.
What Happens During an Early Settlement Panel?
As part of the earlier Court appearance, each party will have submitted a case information statement to the Family Part Court judge. This information is reviewed by the Early Settlement Program panel at the time of the hearing. In addition, each party is required to submit a memo that outlines where they stand on elements of the divorce agreement, including equitable distribution of assets and debts, child support, spousal support, and additional information that is appropriate to the specific case.
The panel reviews the information and recommends a divorce settlement. This recommendation carries their insights into the fair application of New Jersey divorce law and their interpretation of how the Superior Court: Family Part judge is likely to rule the case if it goes to litigation.
Types of Divorce Issues Handled by the Early Settlement Panel
The Early Settlement Panel addresses the financial elements of a divorce settlement. Many of the issues that arise in a couples’ divorce proceeding involve the equitable distribution of marital assets, the distribution of outstanding shared debts, child support payments, and spousal support payments. The experience of the family lawyers on their panel supports their recommendation of a fair arrangement that both parties are likely to consider viable.
Advantages of the Early Settlement Panel
One primary advantage of presenting your divorce case before an Early Settlement Panel is that it provides an alternative to what will likely be a very costly and timely litigation. Couples who cannot reach an agreement regarding their divorce prior to being referred to an Early Settlement Panel have an opportunity to advantage the insight and experience of a group of skilled family lawyers who can interpret New Jersey’s equitable distribution laws fairly and provide a read on what the judge would likely rule if the case were to go to litigation.
Are Early Settlement Panel Recommendations Binding?
While couples are required to participate in an Early Settlement Panel mandated by the Family Court, the couple may decide whether to accept or reject the recommendations of the panel.
Steps After the ESP Recommendations
A couple who chooses to accept the Panel’s recommendations faces a very swift road to divorce. Often on the same day that the couple’s case goes before the Early Settlement Panel, the recommended settlement will be placed before a Family Part judge, at which point the judge will hear the evidence, and both parties will affirm under oath that they understand and agree to all elements of the settlement.
Are you going through a divorce and have been referred to the Early Settlement Panel? Contact a Divorce & Family Lawyer Serving Freehold, Toms River, and Surrounding Areas Today
Having the support of a skilled family lawyer makes all the difference when preparing for an Early Settlement Hearing. Because an ESP could be seen as a ‘practice round’ for litigation, the recommendations of the panel based on what you present will provide insight into how a divorce settlement is likely to play out, with or without your cooperation. Your family law attorney can help you prepare the documentation and memo you are required to submit to the panel and ensure that it is comprehensive.
At Bronzino Law Firm, we understand the importance of ensuring your terms are met in divorce while moving along the settlement process. We’d be happy to represent your best interests and those of your children. Our talented lawyers successfully represent clients across Lakewood, Tinton Falls, Toms River, Rumson, Howell, Freehold, Middletown, and towns throughout Monmouth and Ocean County to prepare them for an Early Settlement Panel. No matter what the case may be, whether the ultimate avenue is mediation or litigation for your divorce, our goal is to ensure that a viable settlement is reached in your case.