An Early Settlement Conference is a process in New Jersey where one or two attorneys (called panelists) volunteer their time to help to settle your divorce. These panelists are attorneys who are not otherwise involved in your case. The panelists meet with you, your lawyer, your spouse and their lawyer. They volunteer their time and do not get paid by you or the court system. The panelists will allow both lawyers to summarize the case and they will give a recommendation to settle the case. The panelists are not deciding your case, but are only giving their opinions. What they say is not binding and you are not required to accept this opinion. However, it is usually very close to what a judge would ultimately decide so it is important that you consider their recommendation and discuss it with your attorney. The Early Settlement Conference process is confidential and the panelists’ recommendations are not presented to the judge. You must participate in the Early Settlement Conference process unless you settle before then.
Ann O’Flanagan is an attorney who handles family law exclusively in Flanders, New Jersey.