What to Expect during the Divorce Process — Part Three
You’ve attended the Case Management Conference and completed discovery. What comes next?
Step Five: Try to settle
Settlement negotiations can and usually do start informally way before we get to this point. It is after the exchange of discovery responses that the court really steps up its efforts to encourage settlement. The next step in your divorce journey will likely be the Mandatory Early Settlement Panel MESP. Both parties will submit proposals for settlement to the Early Settlement Panelists: the Panelists are experienced matrimonial attorneys who volunteer their time to help you resolve your case. After submitting the proposals, the parties and their attorneys will meet with the assigned Panelists at the courthouse and the Panelists will recommend settlement terms. The recommendations are confidential: your judge will never know what the Panel recommended. If the parties agree to adopt the recommendations and do in fact settle, the attorneys will ask the court for a week or two to draft a formal settlement agreement and proceed to trial. Before the judge lets you leave the courthouse after the MESP, they will set a trial date, whether or not you have settled.
Step Six: Economic Mediation
If the parties do not settle after receiving the Panel’s recommendations, the judge will send you to Post MESP Economic Mediation. The attorneys will either agree upon a mediator to use (from an approved list) or the judge will appoint one if your attorneys can’t agree. Your attorneys accompany you to economic mediation and in the vast majority of cases, you will settle at or as a result of mediation, if not sooner. If you settle, your trial will proceed uncontested on the trial date. You, your spouse and both attorneys appear before the judge and ask the judge to grant you a divorce and make your Agreement part of your Judgment of Divorce (JOD). The judge will sign the JOD and give you one with an official gold seal.
Step Seven: One last chance
Most cases are settled either as a result of the MESP or mediation. If your case is not one of them, the judge may schedule your case for an Intensive Settlement Conference or they may just schedule you for trial. Less than 2 percent of divorce cases in New Jersey actually go to trial. Trials are time-consuming (can last for months or even years) , expensive and emotionally taxing. Sometimes, they are necessary. And in the event your happen to be in that 2%, we are experienced trial attorneys and will zealously fight to obtain the best possible outcome.
Contact the Law Offices of Kelly Berton Rocco
To schedule a free, 30 minute telephone consultation to discuss your concerns, send us an e-mail or call our office at 201-343-0078. E-mails are always returned within 24 hours and in most cases, within the hour. Phone calls will always be returned by the next business day – again, usually sooner. We’ll be at your side every step of the way.