Will My Divorce End Up at Trial?

It is important to be aware that most New Jersey divorces are settled prior to a trial through negotiations between spouses with the assistance of attorneys and often a mediator.  Only approximately 1 – 2% of all New Jersey divorces are finalized through the trial process.  The New Jersey divorce procedure includes several mandated court events that facilitate settlement of parties’ disputed issues.  In order to avoid the significant expense and emotional distress associated with a trial, most parties resolve their differences prior to trial. 

Careful consideration must be given to whether retaining an expert, such as a forensic accountant for financial issues or a mental health professional for custody and parenting time issues is worth the investment in an effort to reach a settlement regarding these issues.  If one party refuses to engage in good faith negotiations or is abusive or hiding assets, the other party may not have an alternative to having a judge intervene and decide issues concerning equitable distribution, custody and parenting time, alimony and other outstanding issues.

During the divorce process, the court schedules an Early Settlement Panel.  The family lawyers on the panel will review position papers from each attorney and provide recommendations on how best to reach a resolution.  If the matter is not resolved based upon the recommendations of the panelists, the parties are required to select a joint economic mediator to assist in resolving the issues.  It may be necessary for the parties to participate in several mediation sessions to arrive at an amicable settlement.  If neither of these proceedings result in a settlement, the court will schedule an all-day Intensive Settlement Conference which is the last court event prior to going to trial.

The decision whether to proceed to trial is a complex one which requires extensive discussions, weighing the advantages and disadvantages and whether you are likely to prevail.  Contact the family law team of experienced attorneys at Cohn Lifland Pearlman Herrmann & Knopf for a consultation to discuss the specific facts of your divorce matter to enable them to guide you in making informed, strategic decisions.