The New Jersey Courts prefer divorces settle rather than go to trial. Not long after a complaint for divorce is filed, the parties are required to go to before an Early Settlement Panel commonly referred to as an ESP. In advance of the ESP, the parties' attorneys must submit a statement to the Early Settlement Panelists summarizing the issues in your case. The ESP panelists are experienced family law attorneys who are volunteering their time to serve as panelists. After reviewing your ESP statements, meeting with the parties and their attorney the ESP panelists make recommendations as to how to settle your divorce matter. The parties do not have to accept their recommendations. If the parties accept the panelists recommendations their attorneys can memorialize those terms in a Property Settlement Agreement and then return to Court for an uncontested hearing to enter the divorce on the Court record and finalize the divorce judgment. If the parties do not accept the recommendations of ESP panelists, the Judge assigned to their divorce then directs the parties to participate in economic mediation. Economic mediation is a more intense meeting before an experienced divorce attorney. The first two hours of the mediators time are free of charge. After the first two hours the parties are charged for the mediators time. The mediator will further make recommendations towards settlement. If the parties do not accept the mediator's recommendations then the parties can return to the Judge for an Intensive Settlement Conference who makes further settlement recommendations.
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