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So You Want A Divorce… Part IV

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So You Want A Divorce…

A Five-Part Series

PART IV - Settlement

By Julia Middleton


This is the continuation of a series about the steps for filing for Divorce in New Jersey.  It is important for those considering divorce to be informed.  It is our job at Simon Law Group to help individuals navigate the road so they can feel comfortable once they determine they wish to start this process.  For a link to the other parts, Part I, Part II, Part III

Step 4: Settlement Agreement/Early Settlement Panel

The spouses may try to come to an agreement either before or after the filing of the divorce Complaint. If a settlement agreement cannot be reached, and the Complaint and a responsive pleading have been filed, the parties will have to participate in an Early Settlement Panel directed by the Judge. This panel will discussMediation the legal issues involved in the divorce and will recommend how to resolve those issues. If the parties accept the recommendations and agree to be bound by them, the court will ultimately grant you a divorce. If the parties do not accept the recommendations or come to an agreement, they will proceed to Step 5.

Step 5: Economic Mediation

An Economic Mediation, following an unsuccessful Early Settlement Panel, is the mandatory next step and takes place prior to a trial of the New Jersey divorce case. The respective lawyers in the case review a list of court-approved Economic Mediators (experienced NJ Divorce lawyers) and select one for the mediation. Both sides submit an Economic Statement with their respective opinions and then the mediation session begins. 

The first session often starts with the mediator discussing the process to everyone. Then, the mediator will speak with the attorneys alone in order to get a feeling for what the most contentious issues are as well as the ones that can be easily handled. The parties will then discuss these matters and attempt to come to an agreement.

If a settlement is reached, the mediator and the attorneys will draft a Memorandum of Understanding. This document will be signed by both parties and their respective divorce lawyers. It will confirm that the parties have an agreement with respect to all (at least all major) issues. This is essential as a recent New Jersey Supreme Court decision confirmed that any settlement agreement, which was reached at economic mediation, must be written up and signed at the time of mediation. Otherwise, the settlement is not considered enforceable going forward. 

Step 6: Intensive Settlement Conference

If the Economic Mediation does not result in an agreement, then the parties will be required to attend an Intensive Settlement Conference in the courthouse and try once again to settle before taking the case to trial.

Remember, this is a process, each divorce is different, always remain calm.  You don't want to stress yourself out unnecessarily.  We are here to support you and answer any questions or concerns you may have. We are here to guide you through this process.

For additional reading on Divorce and related matters such as child custody, parenting time, domestic violence, feel free to review our website:

Should you be considering a divorce, feel free to contact Simon Law Group to ask questions and get answers. We have a variety of ways to communicate, email:, telephone: 800-709-1131 or text at 908-864-4450.  We are here to help you through this process and put your mind at ease.