If you face divorce and prefer not to go through a trial, the New Jersey Matrimonial Early Settlement Program may be an option. Instead, you and your spouse have a hearing before the ESP panel, neutral volunteer family law attorneys who will help you reach an agreement.
Review the facts about ESP if you have separated from your spouse in New Jersey.
Referral to ESP
After you and your spouse submit your divorce pleadings and other required information to the court, the judge will review your documents and may refer you to ESP. In this case, the state mandates program participation. Each person must prepare a memo for the panel that documents your preferences for division of the family home and other assets and debts, spousal support, and child support. The panel does not deal with child custody or visitation issues.
The hearing process
At the ESP hearing, you and your spouse will each have a chance to present your case to the panel. The attorneys will then discuss your case and recommend a course of action based on the factors in your case. They also consider their legal experience and think about the judge’s probable ruling in the case if you move forward to trial.
After the hearing, you can decide whether or not to accept the panel’s recommendation. If you decide to move forward with litigation, the judge assigned to your case will not be privy to the recommendations of the ESP panel. If you agree with the ESP recommendations, you can sign the settlement and finalize your divorce, often that day.