Early Settlement Panel Divorce Attorney in New Jersey

Explore what happens with matrimonial ESP and your agreement options with our Capable Family Law Attorney in Roselle Park, Cranford, Elizabeth, Rahway, and surrounding towns in Central New Jersey

Early Settlement Panel in NJ Divorce ProceedingsDivorce can be complicated and costly.  The courts don’t deal with a divorce case in one set of days or weeks. You may have part of your divorce proceedings one day, another part two weeks later, another two months later, etc.  The longer your divorce takes the more expensive it becomes; attorney fees, days off work, and other inconveniences can add stress to an already overwhelming time in your life.  But what if there was a way to settle your divorce quickly and (relatively) painlessly?

The state of New Jersey, since the ’70s, has utilized a mediation program known as the Early Settlement Panel (ESP), whose application spread from a handful of counties in the ’70s to state-wide application in the late ’90s. It is so widespread now that only approximately 2% of New Jersey divorce cases are completely settled by trial, partially due to the obligation of couples seeking divorce to go through the ESP process.

ESP is a mandated program sponsored by the court in an effort to help couples seeking a divorce to reach a solution through mediation rather than a lengthy divorce trial. Child custody issues are not dealt with because they require their own investigation, reports, and at times, expert witnesses, but financial agreements such as alimony, child support, and equitable distribution are decided during the ESP.

The Law Office of Edward S. Cooper is dedicated to providing the best legal representation because we know how stressful and complicated the divorce process can seem. With 25 years of matrimonial litigation experience and a passion for helping his clients, Family Law Attorney Edward Cooper knows how to tailor his representation to your individual needs. Even when your separation is a friendly one, it is crucial that the terms and conditions of your settlement agreement be fair and transparent.

If you live in or nearby Clark, Elizabeth, Westfield, Mountainside, Scotch Plains, New Provide, or Union Township, call us at (908) 481-4625  or contact us online. Our goal is to support you through the entire process and help you obtain a confident result for your case.

How Does the Early Settlement Panel Fall Into the Divorce Process in New Jersey?

Your divorce case begins when you file a Complaint for Divorce where you inform the court the grounds for divorce and your intentions regarding child custody, equitable distribution, and spousal support. If you file for divorce with a complaint, your spouse must submit an Answer and Counterclaim detailing their requests. Shortly thereafter, the court will schedule a Case Management Conference, which is a hearing between the judge and the 2 lawyers, where they determine the information needed for discovery and how long it will take to obtain that evidence.  The courts like to keep the divorce process to less than a year but overflowing calendars and delays in expert reports can drag a divorce on for years.

Before the ESP date, each participant’s attorney will give the panel their client’s written settlement position concerning financial issues. That means your attorney will submit your plan for equitable distribution, child support, alimony, they will also turn in a CIS (Case Information Statement) which is a meticulously detailed document providing the income and expenditures of the household along with debts, assets, and properties obtained during the marriage. Added to that is the discovery section containing information about income, expenses, family matters such as parents’ and children’s mental health, and even parenting styles.

How is an ESP Proceeding Conducted in Union County, NJ?

Early Settlement Panel and Divorce Attorney in Union County, NJThe ESP will be scheduled at the time of the Case Management Conference to be held when the discovery section has been completed. The litigants and their respective lawyers will attend. A panel of up to three very experienced, volunteer, matrimonial lawyers will receive copies of a written submission known as a “memo” five days prior to the date of the ESP which outlines each side’s position on child support, alimony, equitable distribution, the shared residence, and any other financial issues concerning the distribution of marital assets. The lawyers on the panel will then listen to the divorce attorneys summarize all requests and reports and the panel will clear any doubts they may have. The litigants are usually not present in the room when this takes place. The panelists then meet and discuss the solutions for settlement which they then present both to the litigants and their respective attorneys. The litigants can ask questions about the recommendations.

What if No Agreement is Reached in a Matrimonial Early Settlement Panel?

Compliance with the panelists’ recommendations is not obligatory but failing to reach an agreement could be very costly for both litigants. A long, drawn-out divorce can cost an exorbitant amount of money. Besides this, litigants who refuse the recommendations are obligated to participate in a compulsory economic mediation program for one hour for the mediator to prepare and another hour of actual mediation time. And yet, some cases simply cannot be resolved via ESP. This is particularly true in high net worth divorce cases and highly complicated divorces involving shared assets like businesses, allegations of domestic violence, or child custody disputes.

How Can a Union NJ Lawyer Prepare and Assist throughout ESP and the Rest of the Divorce Process?

It is crystal clear that preparation for an ESP requires expert legal knowledge of strategies, documents, reports, and procedures. Deadlines need to be met; information must be synthesized.  An experienced lawyer can communicate their client’s needs clearly and succinctly and has the knowledge to deftly manage even the most tangled settlement agreements.

If you aren’t convinced by now, you certainly should be.  ESP can sometimes offer a cost-effective and abbreviated path to finalizing a divorce.  It isn’t about either side getting everything they want.  It’s about spouses making the best decisions for their family and following the recommendations of an expert panel that is impartial and seasoned in matrimonial law. If you both agree that to delay the divorce proceedings will hurt both sides, financially, mentally, and emotionally, then resolving your divorce by way of the Early Settlement Panel may be the right choice for you.

Call Attorney Edward Cooper at (908) 481-4625 to set up your first consultation and get you on your way to closing this chapter of your life. We handle cases in Summit, Berkeley Heights, Cranford, Edison, Linden, North Plainfield, and neighboring places in and around Union County. Just contact us to talk through your divorce and what can be done next in service of your needs and goals.