Every divorce attorney in the sate of New Jersey is extremely familiar with the Early Settlement Panel (“ESP”). ESP is an excellent program, which is mandatory in the Family Part of the Superior Court of New Jersey. Throughout my twenty years as a divorce lawyer, clients of my law firm have greatly benefited from ESP as this program is geared to assist folks in settling their divorce in a fair and economical fashion.
Experienced attorneys in each county who volunteer to help settle divorce cases handle ESP. I have been a “Panelist” since 2000 in Middlesex County, N.J. The Panelists will listen to both of your lawyers make their arguments on your behalf. In turn, they will discuss their non-binding recommendation. Ultimately, they sit with both parties and their respective attorneys, share their opinion of what a fair and equitable outcome would be for your case. The Panelist shall explain the reasoning behind their recommendation and invite any questions of either lawyer or the litigant’s. Many cases then settle and the parties are divorced that day. If ESP does not result in a settlement, the parties shall then proceed to court ordered Economic Mediation.
All attorneys at my law firm understand that ESP is usually a major event in a divorce case. Consequently, we always prepare and submit to the Panelist a document that lays out all open issues of the divorce and our client’s position. Our client’s Case Information Statement (a full financial disclosure that details the assets and liabilities of the marital estate, as well as the present and projected monthly budget of the parties) is also attached to this statement. Following, please find a hypothetical Early Settlement Panel Statement, which shall enhance your understanding of this process. Of course, please never hesitate to contact my office to learn more about how we may help you in your time of need. Thank you.
SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY
MONMOUTH COUNTY, FAMILY DIVISION
EARLY SETTLEMENT PANEL STATEMENT
Docket Number: FM- Panel Date:
Plaintiff: Amy Smith Counsel: Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.
Defendant: John Smith Counsel: Alexander Hamilton, Esq.
Attorney for: (X) Plaintiff ( ) Defendant
1. Issues in dispute: (check if applicable)
Cause of Action __ Custody x Alimony x Child Support x
Equitable Distribution x Visitation x Counsel Fees x Marital Tort __ Other __
2. Important Dates:
Marriage Date: April 1, 2005 Separation Date:
Divorce Filing Date: October 31, 2014 (9 year marriage)
3. Date of Birth of Litigants:
Plaintiff: February 18, 1973 (41 years old)
Defendant: April 2, 1979 (35 years old)
4. Child related information:
Number of Children: 1
Names & ages of children:
1. Sally Smith, born on March 1, 2007, (7 years old)
Custody: The child resides with Wife at the marital home located at 99 Lover’s Lane, Ocean, New Jersey.
5. State your client’s position with regard to the contested issues and proposed settlement as to the following:
All holidays shall be shared, except for Father’s Day which shall be with the Husband and Mother’s Day to the Wife.
b. Child Support: Child support shall be pursuant to the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines with the Husband having an obligation to the Wife. Based upon the reasons set forth below, an income of $120,000 should be used for the Husband and an income of $20,000 should be imputed for the Wife. The Husband shall receive a credit for _________ overnights.
Husband shall pay child support and alimony arrears from January of 2015 through June 2015 in the amount of $__________.
The parties were married for 9 years. The Wife is 41 years old and the Husband is 35 years old. The Husband currently earns approximately $120,000 per year based on his job with the Fire Department City of New York (calculated by using his most recent pay stubs and year to date income). The Wife’s annual salary is $20,000 per year based upon her job with Judy’s Nail Salon as reflected on her 2014 W-2.
Based upon the length of the marriage, the ages of the parties, their respective incomes, their health, the marital lifestyle of the parties and the circumstances of this matter, it is the Wife’s position that alimony be awarded to the Wife at the rate of $___________ annually or $_________ per week through the Monmouth County Probation Department via wage garnishment.
d. Medical/Dental Insurance and expenses for child:
The Husband shall continue to provide health, dental and vision insurance for the benefit of the parties’ minor child, for as long as the Husband remains employed and the child is not emancipated. Any unreimbursed expenses shall be paid as follows: first $250.00 for each child paid by the Parent of Primary Residence, remaining costs divided 50/50.
e. Medical/Dental Insurance and expenses for spouse:
The parties shall be responsible for their own medical and dental coverage and expenses.
f. Child Care expenses:
There are currently no child care expenses for the child other than a babysitter which is used by Wife at informal times and not on a regular basis. Each party shall be solely responsible for any and all costs associated with a babysitter during their parenting time.
g. College Tuition:
Pursuant to Newburgh vs. Arrigo. The child shall first apply for all grants, scholarship and loans and accept those which she qualifies for. The Husband and Wife shall both have the obligation and right to work with the minor child to obtain same. Both parties shall be kept informed regarding the college process, grades and college selection, with the goal that both parties financial circumstances should be considered when the child is selecting which college she will attend. The parties’ respective contributions after the child applies for the loans and scholarships mentioned above shall be based on a pro rata percentage share of their total incomes at the time the expense is incurred.
h. Equitable Distribution:
I. Marital Residence:
The Wife and her father own real property located at 99 Lover’s Lane, Ocean, New Jersey. The home is presently listed for sale. Upon the sale of the marital home, the parties shall equally share in the net proceeds.II. Other Real Property:
Vacant land in Pennsylvania was received by way of an inheritance to the Wife. As this is an exempt asset, the wife shall retain same.
III. Bank Accounts:
The parties shall keep their own bank accounts. Any joint accounts shall be closed and any monies in same shall be evenly split between the parties.IV. Automobiles:
Each party shall retain the vehicle currently in their possession and shall be responsible for all payments, insurance costs, and expenses associated with said vehicle.V. Stocks & Bonds:
N/A.VI. Pension Plans:
It is believed that the Husband has a pension through his employer, The City of New York. The coverture portion of this account, and any other accounts the parties may have, shall be divided equally between the parties. Any monies due to Wife shall be transferred by way of roll over, if possible. If the parties cannot effectuate the transfer by way of a rollover, then the accounts shall be divided by way of one or more (if necessary) Qualified Domestic Relations Orders. The cost of the QDRO(s) shall be borne equally by Husband and Wife.
VII. Significant Personal Property:
All items of personal property shall be equally divided and equitably distributed between the parties by agreement.
VIII. Other Assets:
IX. Credit Card and other Debts:
The Husband has credit card debt in his name and he shall be solely responsible for same. The Wife shall be responsible for any debt associated with any credit cards in her name.
i. Life Insurance Coverage for both parties:
The Husband shall maintain life insurance naming the minor child as beneficiary until the child is emancipated in the amount of $______,000. In addition, the Husband shall maintain a life insurance policy in the amount of $___________,000 to secure any alimony obligation he may have to the Wife.
j. Tax Exemptions/Dependant Deductions:
Commencing in 2015 and all years thereafter, the parties shall file separate federal and state income tax returns. To the extent that the parties may be able to claim the minor child as a dependent deduction for tax purposes in the future, the Wife shall claim the minor child every year. Husband shall file his return as "Single" and the Wife can file same as "Head of Household.”
k. Counsel Fees:
Due to the vast difference in the parties’ respective incomes, Husband shall contribute $5,000 towards the wife’s counsel fees.