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Are You Facing Divorce?

A Collective Approach to Family Law and Therapy in New Jersey

Which Divorce Option Is Right For You?

Get Insight From a Monmouth County Divorce Lawyer

There are a broad range of settlement and dispute resolution options available, some of which are overlooked or never properly considered. These options range from the exploration of peace and reconciliation of the marriage at one end of the spectrum to a volatile situation that results in a contested trial. These options are especially confusing in the early consultation stages, when there may be a swirl of emotional activity and upset.

Exploring Your Options

The dispute resolution protocols applicable to the majority of cases fall between the reconciliation or settled dispute range and flat-out contested trial litigation.

Arranged in order of increasing conflict and inability of the parties to resolve their issues without intervention, this middle range includes:

  • Mediation: This process is useful where there exists good will between the parties, who are able to put emotions aside and proceed in a reasonable way to resolve their dispute with the assistance of a mediator.

  • Traditional Approach: This remains the standard, most utilized approach for divorcing couples. Each party works with their respective legal counsel. The lawyers generally exchange settlement positions and attend four way conference with their clients.

  • Enlightened meetings: These focus on identifying issues, and coming up with a process to resolve areas of disagreement.

  • Unenlightened meetings: These will focus on which attorney was most forceful, or whether either attorney was able to intimidate the other. Reality sometimes mirrors movie and TV reenactments of four way conferences with the attorneys and litigants all shouting at once, to no positive result.

Four-way Settlement Conference & Arbitration

These may take place with the parties and counsel to explore settlement of the issues. Unfortunately the longer litigation continues, the more frustrated the attorneys and litigants become with their inability to resolve the issues. Dependent on the attorneys involved, and the frame of mind of the parties, four way conferences can become polarizing events which cause the parties and counsel to become further entrenched in their negotiating positions.

To avoid the "contested trial" route, parties who cannot conciliate differences with the assistance of their attorneys or utilization of mediation have the alternative to resolve their cases through arbitration, which is conducted by an experienced family law practitioner.

Early Settlement Panels

Monmouth County divorce attorneys were very active in the mid-1970s in exploring creative approaches to assist the Court in resolving cases. The Early Settlement Panel process was created in Morris and adopted early on in Monmouth County as a way to break negotiating log-jams and assisting the parties and counsel in coming to terms on issues that must be resolved before the Court will allow divorce litigation to end.

The "ESP" program is an informal proceeding at the Monmouth County Court house in Freehold. The program is regarded as successful and for many years has been implemented state-wide. One or two attorneys not familiar with the issues in the case, receive pre-hearing statements from each side, and meet with the parties and counsel in an effort to resolve the dispute.

The Panel is not paid. The attorneys volunteer their time; they are considered to be neutral, and have no stake in the outcome. The Panel is selected from experienced members of the Bar. The Panel's recommendations are non-binding, but frequently result in the settlement of cases or the freeing up of negotiations that have ossified and become purely positional.


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August J. Landi
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