The Initial Consultation
- There a number of questions that you should ask during your initial consultation with an attorney. These questions should relate to the skill level of the attorney, the plans he or she has for your case, as well as their fees. Because the stakes are high in any divorce case, as children and often a great deal of money is at issue, you need to ensure that any attorney you hire is capable and confident in representing your interests. At the end of the consultation you should have a plan as to how your case will be resolved and how your attorney will get you to the finish line.
Divorce Complaint and Answer
- The next step will be filing your divorce Complaint and the necessary affidavits to initiate the process. Once filed and returned to your attorney, the Complaint must be served on your spouse. Once served, your spouse has 35 days to file an Answer and/or a Counterclaim.
Case Management and Discovery
- Once all of the necessary initial documents are filed, your case will be scheduled for a case management conference and a discovery schedule will be made. There are several discovery tools utilized during divorce litigation. The first is Interrogatories, which are a series of targeted questions involving the marital lifestyle, custody and parenting concerns and standard of living during your marriage. Each party will draft these questions and propound them upon the other. The next type of discovery is a Notice to Produce or Request for Production of Documents, which requests mostly financial documentation, by way of confirming the information requested and answered in the Interrogatories. If information is not forthcoming from either side, attorneys have the option of subpoenaing records, or engaging experts to perform evaluations. Please note that settlement is obtainable at any point during your divorce litigation. We do not necessarily have to complete the discovery process in advance of making a settlement proposal to your spouse or responding to one received.
Custody and Parenting Time Mediation
- Parties who are divorcing, and who have children, are required to attend custody and parenting time mediation, provided by the Court at no cost to the parties, as part of their divorce proceedings. This is a requirement for your divorce proceedings to continue and you must attend same. The purpose of the program is to provide you and your spouse with an opportunity to discuss your children, establish a reasonable parenting plan for you both and your children, and to have an informal discussion in an attempt to resolve the custody portion of your case. Mediation is a completely confidential process and anything you or your spouse say during that mediation cannot be used against you in any future proceedings before a Judge.
Early Settlement Panel
- The Early Settlement Panel is a mandatory program scheduled by the Court, and is the first, court ordered, opportunity for economic settlement. Every contested divorce case must be reviewed by the Panel. The Panel consists of two/three lawyers who are extremely experienced in family law matters. These attorneys will review the financial aspects, only, of your case; they will evaluate your submitted Case Information Statement and will make a recommendation for settlement. The goal here is to have an independent, third party review the facts and circumstances of your case and provide you with a reasonable resolution. The Panel will recommend a settlement based on the law, the fairness and equity of the situation, and discern a judge’s likely decision, should the case ever reach Trial.
- If your case does not resolve at or immediately after attending the Early Settlement Panel, you will be scheduled for an economic mediation session. This will likely be with a third attorney, or with an economic expert, who will assist in negotiating an amicable resolution of your matter. As with custody/parenting time mediation, this is an entirely confidential process and anything you or your spouse say during that mediation cannot be used against you in any future proceedings before a Judge.
Intensive Settlement Conference
- Prior to Trial commencing and in an effort to avoid the necessity of the same, the Court may schedule an Intensive Settlement Conference. During the conference, the court will assist you through counsel to arrive at a settlement with your spouse. You can expect that this appearance will be for the entirety of the day, so please plan accordingly. In the event your matter is resolved at the settlement conference, your case will be scheduled for an uncontested hearing in the near future. In the event your matter is not entirely resolved, the Court will schedule your case for trial.
- Trials occur in a very small number of matrimonial matters, but unfortunately, whether it be with an unreasonable adversary or particularly difficult and unique issues, trial is the only way for a case to be resolved in the event a settlement cannot be confirmed.
We work hard to thoroughly prepare for Trial while we are often pursuing settlement through mediation and other alternative dispute methods. We prepare each matter completely and tailor our approach to meet our client’s needs. Lawyers at our firm have extensive experience and in-depth knowledge of the law, so we are well prepared to take your case to Trial in New Jersey courts when necessary.