If you’re preparing for a divorce to go to trial, many issues may be weighing on your mind. While divorce is complicated for every family, it can be even more so when litigation becomes involved.
Litigation may feel intimidating, but it is possible to reduce the stress involved. If your divorce needs to go to trial, one of the best things you can do in advance is to learn about the process to make the best choices available for you and your family during this time.
That’s part of why it’s essential to partner with an experienced divorce attorney—it’s easier to make smart decisions for your future when you have legal counsel that’s well-versed in court processes.
Many complex factors influence how a divorce trial may proceed. There are many ways to arrive at a divorce settlement, and it’s important to remember that not all require a judge’s verdict.
Keep in mind that throughout the litigation process, you have the ability to move from litigation to mediation and vice versa and can elect other alternative dispute resolution techniques to supplement as well. The New Jersey court system allows settlement-oriented discussion throughout the litigation process, so parties can adjust as the proceedings take place.
Regardless of whether or not you proceed to trial, gathering and tracking your family’s financial information is crucial. Financial documentation plays a critical role in determining fair asset distribution, so you and your divorce attorney must bring all relevant data to the table.
If your relationship has been high conflict or involved abuse, consult your attorney to determine what you should document and how you should approach the process.
What steps lead up to a divorce trial?
If your divorce in New Jersey proceeds to trial, there are several steps that you may encounter:
During discovery, both spouses must disclose relevant financial information, including:
- Bank statements
- Loan and credit card statements
- Income tax returns
- History of purchases and expenses
- Other relevant financial information
If you think your spouse is failing to disclose financial information in the discovery process, your divorce attorney can take the necessary actions to help you ensure full disclosure and pursue the fairest possible settlement in terms of asset division, alimony, and child support.
2. Pretrial Early Settlement Panel
After discovery concludes, a couple has the opportunity to resolve their divorce through settlement without a judge through the Pretrial Early Settlement Panel, commonly known as ESP. This stage provides the parties with recommendations from experienced matrimonial attorneys, who have no vested outcome in the litigation, based on position statements provided to them with corroborating documentation.
Although these recommendations aren’t legally binding, many people choose to agree with the ESP recommendations.
3. Economic Mediation
If spouses cannot arrive at an agreement in the Early Settlement Panel, they must then go through Economic Mediation. In this process, a neutral mediator works with the parties and their attorneys on the financial issues related to their divorce.
Each side submits an Economic Mediation Statement that outlines their positions for settlement. The mediator then attempts to help the parties find a workable solution for everyone.
Mediation is an effective approach to conflict resolution. Parties who use mediation work with a trained and neutral third party who can facilitate productive conversations about issues at stake in the divorce. Here, those issues center around the financial aspects of your divorce. Mediation can save parties time and money but also reduces stress and conflict by removing the conversation from the more adversarial courtroom setting. While this is mandated by the Court, parties can use this opportunity to work towards the resolution of their matter productively.
4. Intensive Settlement Conference
For divorce in New Jersey, some counties require at least one, and sometimes several, Intensive Settlement Conference(s) as a last step before going to trial. In an Intensive Settlement Conference, the divorcing parties and their attorneys spend a day in court trying to come to an agreement one last time.
The judge is typically part of this process as a guide or to help facilitate discussions about what an ultimate outcome could look like for the family, although the judge isn’t allowed to make rulings or take final positions. In some counties, the ISC takes place with a family judge other than the one your case is assigned to further assist the parties with settlement negotiations.
Ultimately, the couple’s divorce settlement will proceed to trial if there are still unresolved issues. Each party’s attorney will present facts and evidence and will argue findings and positions before a family court judge, who will then make the final ruling on the divorce settlement.
While the family court system encourages parties to find alternative resolutions to divorce rather than relying on a trial, the fact is that court intervention is necessary in some situations.
Once a judge has made a ruling on the matters that remain unresolved, the ruling is final and can only be altered through a formal appeal or modified if and when circumstances change substantially.
Getting support during your New Jersey divorce trial
A litigated divorce can bring up many complex emotions, but it is always good to remember the following: You will make it out the other side. There is an “after divorce” ahead of you.
In the meantime, finding ways to manage your stress, emotions, and worries is important. Here are a few tips:
- Learn about the process. Knowing what to expect can take away some of the fear. (And you’re already doing it—be proud!)
- See a therapist that specializes in divorce. Your mental health is essential, and a trained mental health professional can help you build strong coping techniques and provide an unbiased perspective.
- Practice self-care. Not the fun kind, but rather the practical, day-to-day kind.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet and stay hydrated
- Get plenty of rest
- Follow a regular exercise routine
- Keep up-to-date on routine care activities like filling prescriptions, going to the doctors, etc.
- Limit screen time and media intake, especially if it is a source of stress
If you’re struggling with daily activities, reach out for help.
Simplify the process with a legal team you can trust
Going through a divorce trial can be stressful, but you shouldn’t need to navigate the process alone. That’s why it’s so important to work with a legal team that understands your needs is so important.
At Jacobs Berger, LLC, our goal is to minimize your stress. We focus on strategy and goal-oriented legal advice that’s tailored to your unique circumstances and needs so that we can find a suitable path forward for all parties involved.
If you need legal representation or are considering going to trial for your divorce, our experienced divorce attorneys can help. Contact us today to schedule a strategic planning session.