Some couples in New Jersey, even if they are divorcing, do not want the matter to get too contentious. This may especially be true for high-asset couples who may not want their names dragged through the mud, or their personal financial information made public as it would be if they litigated their divorce.
The Early Settlement Program (ESP) is a required program that is intended to promote settlements without having a court hear proposed solutions.
What is the Early Settlement Program?
ESP is a mandatory program for New Jersey couples going through a divorce. Like private mediation, the goal is to help the divorcing couple reach a settlement without having to go through litigation. If successful, settling a divorce through participation in ESP can save a couple time, money and it can be less taxing emotionally when compared to a litigated divorce.
How does the Early Settlement Program work?
ESP cases are overseen by “panelists.” These are experienced family law attorneys who volunteer for the program. In an ESP case, the parties must submit an ESP memo which is reviewed by the panel. An ESP memo outlines each party’s opinion on child support, spousal support and property division. Note that child custody issues cannot be dealt with in ESP. The panel will also consider any other supporting documents the parties submit. Then the panelists will discuss the case and recommend a settlement. Note that this decision is not legally binding on you or the judge in your case; you still have the right to litigate your divorce if you want.
Are there benefits to ESP?
ESP gives participants a structured way to settle their divorce without having to go to trial. Some people may find the peace and privacy of ESP to be attractive. Other couples may decide that the more formal and traditional divorce trial process is best for them. It should be noted, the only way you are able to waive the ESP process is if both parties agree and a judge consents. No matter your divorce situation, talking to an experienced family law attorney is a helpful first step.