In this stage of your Divorce Journey, you are beginning the divorce process. Every divorce is different, but there are many common steps that you can take to ensure the divorce process goes smoothly.
Step 1: Case Management Conference
Once one party has filed for divorce and the other party has answered the complaint, the litigation will commence. In New Jersey, the first step in your divorce journey is the case management conference. The case management conference can be viewed as a scheduling conference.
Depending on which county you live in, the case management conference can be held in person with your attorneys present, and the judge. You can also allow your attorneys to work by consent; working together on a schedule and submitting it to a judge for signature.
Step 2: Divorce Discovery
After the case management conference, you will enter a period called discovery. Discovery is your opportunity to discover your spouse’s finances, and also your spouse’s opportunity to discover things about your finances. Even if parties have joint bank accounts and know about all the debts and assets each other have, there are times where hidden accounts are found.
Step 3: Early Settlement Panel (The End?)
Once you leave the discovery period, it’s mandatory to attend an early settlement panel. The early settlement panel occurs at the courthouse. You and your divorce attorney will submit a settlement position, and so will your spouse and their attorney. Your attorneys are now going to try and give you a reasonable settlement. They will advise you of the pros and cons of taking the case to trial, and your likelihood of success with the judge.
Step 4: Economic Mediation (Optional)
If you don’t settle after the early settlement panel, you’ll go to mandatory economic mediation. Part of that process is of no cost to you, and the other part of the process will cost you some money. If you don’t settle in economic mediation, you will prepare yourself to go to trial.
Step 5: Taking the Divorce to Trial (Optional)
If you and your spouse decide that you are unhappy with the settlement offer, you will move on to divorce trial. Each side will make an opening statement. The party that initiated the divorce will present the facts first by calling their witnesses to testify first. The witnesses can also be cross-examined by the both sides. If the parties have any expert witnesses, they will also testify.
Once the trial has concluded the judge will make his final order. At this point the divorce can be over, or if one of the parties is dissatisfied they can file a motion and take it for another look.
Whether you take your case to a trial or negotiate a settlement is up to you and your soon to be former spouse. Most people settle their cases. 98% of people in the State of New Jersey settle; they don’t go to trial. Trials are long, they’re costly, and they’re emotional. Most people can decide their case without having a judge call every issue.