New Jersey has an equitable distribution law that requires marital assets to be divided fairly but not necessarily equally in a divorce. Spouses who would prefer to avoid public and costly court battles can establish for themselves how their property should be divided by negotiating divorce settlements. Once these settlements have been submitted and approved by the court, they become legally binding.
Negotiating a divorce settlement
Emotions can run hot during a divorce, but spouses should keep them under control and focus on areas of mutual interest when they negotiate divorce settlements. They should also negotiate in good faith and disclose all of their assets. If assets or sources of income are concealed, the divorce settlement will likely be challenged when the truth emerges. Parents want the best for their children even if they agree on little else, so discussing matters like custody and visitation early in divorce negotiations may be a good way to find common ground.
The New Jersey Early Settlement Program
New Jersey family law courts offer divorcing couples an Early Settlement Program to help them reach agreements and avoid legal disputes. Trained and experienced settlement coordinators run the mediation service, and judges have the authority to make participation in the program mandatory. ESP hearings can help spouses to reach agreements for property division in a divorce, but parenting matters are not discussed.
The benefits of mediation
Traditional negotiating has an adversarial element that can make achieving an equitable outcome very difficult. Mediation services like the Early Settlement Program are more collaborative, and they are sometimes able to provide a breakthrough when court proceedings seem inevitable. This takes the pressure off the courts and allows spouses to resolve their differences behind closed doors. If a divorcing couple does not like the recommendations made by an early settlement panel, they can reject them as the mediation is nonbinding.