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Alternative dispute procedures can be at times very effective in settling your case before trial and at every stage of your matter. In New Jersey and New York, trials take an extremely long time to be scheduled and unlike you see you on television are often not completed in consecutive days and require many days of testimony extended over several months if not longer.

Less than five percent of all divorce cases are actually decided by trial. There are a number of alternatives to trial that can be utilized to aid in settlement negotiations or pretrial settlement of a case.

In New Jersey, there is an Early Settlement Panel, or ESP. Early Settlement Panels exist in every County, they are free to the litigants and are handled by attorneys that volunteer their time, are unpaid, and are usually experienced divorce practitioners themselves. Your attorney will provide a written submissions to the panelists prior to the ESP date who then make recommendations as to the proper disposition of the case at the time of the ESP.

If your case does not settle after going to ESP, several counties in New Jersey have Mandatory Economic Meditation where you must meet with a court approved mediator (which is chose from a list by your attorney) to further attempt to settle your case.

?In addition to the Court provided Early Settlement Panel proceedings and Mandatory Economic Mediation, the parties themselves always have the right to access private mediation or arbitration at any time and Judge’s usually afford you the time and opportunity to attend same.

In private mediation, the parties and their attorneys will ultimately agree upon an experienced mediator to mediate your dispute. The mediator’s role is not to make a decision, or advocate one position over the other, but rather open up the lines of communication, give you a neutral third party perspective, and assist litigants in coming to a mutually agreed upon settlement.

There also exists the opportunity to attend Arbitration, which is a binding procedure with very limited exceptions. There are an array of experienced divorce attorneys and retired Judges who are available to serve as arbitrators. The parties and their attorneys generally enter into an Arbitration Agreement which will define the nature and scope of the arbitration. Arbitration can be in either a very formal or informal proceeding depending on how the attorneys decide to proceed. One other alternative to going to trial in your divorce is to explore collaborative divorce.

No matter which road you choose to go, every client must understand these alternatives and should choose which, if any, suits them.