Spotlight on the Matrimonial Early Settlement Program: What is It?

We’ve already told you that it’s the court that really wants you to settle your divorce.  The Matrimonial Early Settlement Program (MESP) is one means of working towards that goal.  If you are considering a divorce, you need to know how the MESP might apply to your case.

You notice that the name of the program includes the word “early.”  That’s because the court doesn’t want your divorce to be a long protracted process.  Judges need to clear their calendars as much as possible.  And, it’s rarely beneficial for the parties to linger in the process, rather than moving on with their lives.

How MESP Works in Divorce Cases

After the divorce complaint is filed, it is assigned to a family court judge in the county where it was initiated.  The court ultimately makes the decision about whether the case should be referred to the early settlement program.  More often than not, a recommendation will be made.  Appearance at the hearing is considered mandatory.  In a future blog, we will tell you what happened when one of the parties in a divorce failed to show you at the scheduled MESP date.

The individuals who conduct the hearing are experienced family law attorneys.  Panelists who agree to assist parties in settling their divorce cases in this forum are also volunteers.  They are not paid for their time.  Their objective is to help you and your former spouse come to an agreement regarding the issues in your case.

Your attorney will have knowledge of the MESP date soon after the divorce complaint is filed.  You will need to respond to your lawyer’s request for information as it necessary to have documentation available at the time of the hearing.  Here are some examples of materials that may need to be submitted:

  • Case Information Statement (CIS):  Under New Jersey law, a CIS must be filed within twenty (20) days after the divorce complaint or answer are filed.  The form is confidential and contains the relevant details of the couple’s financial assets and liabilities.  Information is also requested regarding income and monthly expenditures.   You can look at a blank form here to see the specific requirements.
  • Interrogatories: Interrogatories are written questions submitted by the attorney for your former spouse.  Your attorney will work with you in providing the answers.  It is imperative that you provide preliminary information to counsel.
  • Settlement Proposal:  Even if there are items that you sense will be contested by your soon to be former spouse, your attorney will meet with you regarding a settlement proposal.  This will assist in moving the process to discuss unresolved issues.

The panelists who review divorce cases use their experience to make recommendations.  They understand matrimonial law and how it will impact  equitable distribution alimony and child support.  Although you are not obligated to accept their suggestions, they may ultimately be very similar to how a judge might rule in your case. 

Like other settlement meetings, compromise may be crucial to coming to a solution.  If either you or your former spouse does not agree to the panel’s recommendations, you may be referred for financial mediation.  This is known as the Program for Mediation of Economic Aspects of Family Law Cases.  Look for our next article to learn more about this divorce settlement tool.

Contact Us

At the Law Offices of Sam Stoia, we want to help make your divorce as painless as possible.  We do not charge for our first meeting with prospective clients.  Call us to see how we can assist you in the divorce process.

Spotlight on the Matrimonial Early Settlement Program: What is It?

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