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The Intensive Settlement Panel


What happens if your New Jersey divorce case cannot be settled through conventional means?

What if 4-way conferences, the Early Settlement Panel, and conferences with the judge have all failed to yield a settlement?

In Monmouth County, over the past 15 years we have developed an "Intensive Settlement Program" or an "Intensive Settlement Panel" (ie. the "ISP").

Whereas the Early Settlement Panel lasts generally for under an hour, the ISP is basically an all day long Early Settlement Panel conducted by one instead of two panelists.

The ISP is an event that occurs once a year, usually in the spring.

The presiding judge of the Family Court takes a look at all of the difficult cases that are still pending, tries to figure out which of those cases probably needs a trial, and which of those cases really might benefit by having the parties spending the day at the County Courthouse with a good, neutral volunteer lawyer.

Then he will have the parties come to Court and ask this neutral person to give a totally non-binding recommendation as to how he thinks that the case should settle.

What standard does the Intensive Settlement Panel member use to determine how this case probably should settle?

The ISP panelist will balance your position against the position of your spouse, and he will, metaphorically speaking, try to "get into the head" of the Judge in your case. He will try to figure out if testimony came in at a trial before this particular judge, and if the wife testifies to all the things that she has been saying, and if the husband said all the things that he has been saying, and if all that testimony came in, if there was cross-examination, if the issue was fully vetted, what would this particular judge most likely do? What decision would she likely make at the end of the case?

If the ISP panelist that day can get a handle on his knowledge of how this judge usually makes decisions, and if this person can couple his knowledge of how this judge usually makes these types of decision with the particular facts of your case, then this panelist is in a very special, very unique position to say to us, "Look, here's what I think will happen if this particular judge hears all the facts of your case and, here's what I think is likely that the judge would come up with as a decision."

Once we have that information from the panelist, it gives us a very useful perspective.

That information then becomes useful to you and to me and to your spouse and your spouse's lawyer.

It is very useful because it can save you quite a bit of time and money.

The first thing I have to do as your lawyer is ask myself if I agree with this person. Is what your ISP panelist saying logical to me? Does it make sense to me?

Does it square with what I know about this judge and with what I know about the law, and does it square and with what I know about how this judge usually interprets the law?

Most importantly, does it square with what my gut is telling me?

If I come to the conclusion that it doesn't, I will tell you that. "Here's what the panelist is recommending. I do not agree with her, and I do not think that you should follow this recommendation."

On the other hand, if what the Intensive Settlement Panel member has recommended makes sense to me under the circumstances, then I will recommend that you accept his recommendation and settle your case along the lines proposed by the ISP panelist.

We would then draft a Matrimonial Settlement Agreement, negotiate any necessary changes with our adversary, and ultimately proceed to an uncontested divorce hearing.



Topics: Divorce Court