New Jersey Early Settlement Panels Lawyer
If you are heading for divorce, you and your spouse will likely be unable to agree on many important issues such as child custody, alimony, and division of assets and liabilities. Couples have a contested divorce when there is conflict and it could lead to extensive court involvement. Contested divorce proceedings generally take a long time to complete, often resulting in a significant amount of stress and increased legal fees.
Contact a New Jersey early settlement panels lawyer for information about your legal options when moving forward through the divorce process. Working with a family law attorney who has experience handling contested divorce matters could make a large difference in the outcome of your case. The right divorce lawyer should have the ability to help you navigate the divorce waters and pursue a settlement through one or more available options, such as mediation or litigation when needed.
Early Settlement Panels
Parties to a contested divorce in New Jersey are required to attend what is called an early settlement panel, or ESP before proceeding to litigation in court. The main purpose of the ESP is to minimize the emotional strain and legal costs commonly associated with protracted dissolution of marriage cases. ESPs may be complicated, but a New Jersey early settlement panels lawyer could explain how it may be helpful to spouses facing a contested divorce.
ESPs are made up of two or three volunteer matrimonial lawyers who have at least five years of relevant experience in the profession. As they have no affiliation with either party in a contested divorce, ESP panelists may provide objective insight on how the case should be resolved, potentially saving the parties a substantial amount in legal fees.
Issues Decided at the ESP
It is important to understand that early settlement panels only address the financial aspects of contested divorces. Each side submits a formal statement to the panel in advance summarizing what divorce terms they are willing to accept. A New Jersey early settlement panels lawyer could help filing spouses prepare this critical paperwork.
The ESP Hearing
After reviewing the statements of the parties and all other relevant information, ESP panelists may meet with the parties and their attorneys. As the hearing is informal, there is no sworn testimony, written record, or cross-examination. After listening to the attorneys present their cases and asking follow-up questions, the panelist deliberate in private and call the parties back to provide their recommendations.
Moving on Into Litigation for Divorcing New Jersey Couples
Neither spouse who participates in an early settlement panel is obligated to accept the panel’s recommendation. If both do, they may be able to obtain a final judgment of divorce that very same day. If either spouse finds the ESP’s recommendation unacceptable, a judge has the option of ordering the spouses to attend mediation in a further attempt to iron out their differences before litigation becomes necessary.
Refusing to participate in the early settlement panel could have dire consequences to the divorce case. Per court rule, a party who does not participate in the ESP after being ordered to do so risks forfeiting their pleadings, even with the strong advocacy from a New Jersey early settlement panel lawyer. The practical effect of refusing to participate in the ESP is that it will cost the spouse money, diminish their credibility in the eyes of the family law court, and hurt their chances of achieving their desired divorce outcome.
Contact a New Jersey Early Settlement Panels Attorney Today
As long as each party in a contested divorce case is willing to compromise and act in good faith, there is a high probability that a settlement can be reached through negotiation, including participation in the New Jersey court-mandated early settlement panel. Otherwise, a drawn-out and potentially very costly court battle may be necessary. Contact a New Jersey early settlement panels lawyer today to schedule a consultation regarding your divorce matter.