Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.

May Dissolution Of A Domestic Partnership Be Handled In Mediation and/or Arbitration?

Yes.  When a domestic partnership reaches the end stage of the relationship, the domestic partnership is dissolved at the Family Part of the Superior Court of New Jersey.  However, many folks, and their respective attorneys, may decide that mediation is more economical (and many times will resolve all outstanding issues between the parties more quickly as well).  However, if mediation is not successful, the parties’ may then agree to binding arbitration.  The pros are that all matters are kept private.  Furthermore and again, this should ultimately be less expensive and more expeditious that a trial before a New Jersey Family Court judge.  The primary negative is that neither party may have their attorney appeal the decision of the Arbitrator.  Below, please find a sample Final Judgment of Dissolution of Domestic Partnership that specifically details this type of scenario:

LAW OFFICES OF EDWARD R. WEINSTEIN, L.L.C.

Weinstein Professional Building

214 Highway 18 North, Suite 2A

East Brunswick, New Jersey 08816

Telephone: 732-246-0909

Attorney for Plaintiff, Lisa Jones


LISA JONES,

Plaintiff,


v.


MARY JONES,


Defendant.



SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY

MIDDLESEX COUNTY

CHANCERY DIVISION – FAMILY PART


DOCKET NO.:  FM-10-0123-10


CIVIL ACTION


FINAL JUDGMENT OF DISSOLUTION OF DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP

This matter coming on to be heard on June 27, 2012, in the presence of Edward Weinstein, Esq., of the Law Offices of Edward R. Weinstein, L.L.C., attorneys for the Plaintiff, Lisa Jones; and in the presence of Joe Lawyer, Esq., of Law Office of Joe Lawyer, Esquire, attorneys for the Defendant, Mary Jones; and the Court having read and considered the Complaint; and it appearing that Plaintiff and Defendant entered into a registered domestic partnership on August 16, 2004, and the Defendant having pleaded and proved a cause of action for Divorce under the statute in such a case made and provided, and the parties having been bona fide residents of the State of New Jersey for more than one year next preceding the commencement of this action and jurisdiction having been acquired over the parties pursuant to the Rules governing the Courts;

Thereupon, it is on this 27th day of June 2012, by the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, ORDERED AND ADJUDGED;  and the said Court by virtue of the power and authority of this Court and of the acts of the legislature in such case made and provided does hereby ORDER AND ADJUDGE that said Plaintiff, Lisa Jones, and said Defendant, Mary Jones, be dissolved from the domestic partnership for the causes stated in the Complaint and the said parties and each of them be freed and discharged from the obligations thereof; and 

IT IS FURTHER AGREED BETWEEN THE PARTIES and ORDERED as follows:

  1. 1. The parties agree to mediate and attempt to amicably resolve any and all issues arising out of their dissolution.  _____________________________ shall serve as the mediator.  In the event that the parties amicably resolve their issues through mediation, they shall enter into a Property Settlement Agreement to be incorporated into an Amended Judgment of Dissolution.
  2. 2. In the event that mediation is unsuccessful, the parties, after full and complete discussions with their counsel, have elected to enter into alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) to be conducted pursuant to the procedures set forth in the New Jersey Alternative Procedure for Dispute Resolution Act, (“The Act” or “APDRA”), N.J.S.A. 2A:23A-1, et seq.  The parties have been made fully aware of their rights to not enter into ADR and to have all or portions of their matter heard to completion by the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part, Middlesex County.  By indicating their consent to this Order, each party also acknowledges having received a copy of the Act, that they have read same, and discussed all terms of the Act with counsel.
  3. 3. The parties, with advice of counsel, knowingly, freely, and voluntarily hereby waive their right to a full and complete hearing before the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part, Middlesex County, except as to entry of a dissolution decree and issues specifically not to be submitted to ADR (if any), as detailed before, which issues shall be decided by the Court after the conclusion of ADR and entry of a final ADR Award.
  4. 4. Neither party to this Agreement shall have the right or power to revoke this Agreement without the consent in writing of the other party hereto.
  5. 5. The parties shall continue to maintain the status quo with respect to all financial obligations of the domestic partnership pending final resolution by mediation or arbitration.  

ISSUES TO BE SUBMITTED TO ADR:

  1. 6. The parties agree that the following issues in their dissolution action shall be submitted to the ADR process:
    1. a. Custody
    2. b. Time Sharing
    3. c. Equitable Distribution
    4. d. Eligibility of assets and debts for equitable distribution
    5. e. Alimony
    6. f. Child Support
    7. g. Health Insurance
    8. h. Life Insurance
    9. i. Educational Expenses
    10. j. Professional Fees
    11. k. Any other issues
    12. 7. These issues may be expanded upon by mutual written agreement of the parties prior to the commencement of ADR, and with consent of the Umpires subsequent to the commencement of ADR.
    13. 8. The parties hereby agree to appoint ________________________________ to be the Umpire.  Each party shall promptly sign a retainer agreement of the Umpire if so requested.

CHOICE OF UMPIRE & RESPONSIBILITY FOR ASSOCIATE FEES:

    1. 9. The Umpire shall determine how his/her fees shall be allocated between the parties.  However, until such determination is made, the retainer of $________ to the Umpire shall be paid ___________ percent by Plaintiff and ________________ percent by the Defendant, without prejudice subject to reallocation.
    2. 10. Fees of the Umpire shall be charged at the rate of $_________ per hour.  The Umpire will be reimbursed for out-of-pocket disbursements, for photocopy fees, facsimile fees and messenger service fees, if needed.
    3. 11. The Umpire’s decision shall be final and binding upon both parties and shall not be appealable, except in accordance with N.J.S.A. 2A:23A-13.  The parties, upon the advice of counsel, have been fully aware that they are giving up their right to a full appeal by entering into this ADR Agreement, and that their rights of appeal are being limited in accordance with N.J.S.A. 2A:23A-13.
    4. 12. Notwithstanding the above, the parties recognize that they cannot by agreement relieve the Court of its obligation to safeguard the best interests of the child.  Therefore, the standard of review agreed to herein by the parties may not apply to the standard of review for issues related to the child, which standard may afford to the Court greater powers of review.  The parties further agree that the Court may review child support awards to determine whether same should be vacated under N.J.S.A. 2A:24-8.  Assuming the award passes muster on those accounts, the Court may then conduct a de novo review of the child support award unless it is clear on the face of the award that the award “could not adversely affect the substantial best interests of the child.”

INCORPORATION OF UMPIRE’S DECISION INTO JUDGMENT:

    1. 13. The parties agree that unless either party moves to vacate or modify the Umpire’s decision within ____ days of their receipt of same, each shall be bound by the Umpire’s decision, and said decision shall be incorporated into an Amended Dual Judgment of Dissolution and shall be specifically enforceable in the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part, Middlesex County, without limitation on the Court’s remedies.

ENFORCEMENT BY UMPIRE OR ARBITRATION PROCESS:

    1. 14. The parties and their counsel understand the importance of resolving this matter expeditiously.  They will each cooperate with all discovery requests.  They will cooperate in scheduling conferences and hearings.  All discovery shall proceed according to the APDRA, Section 10.
    2. 15. The Umpire Shall have leave to assess sanctions, counsel fees, costs, and other relief to a litigant for the other party’s failure to comply with the process of ADR or any ruling or directive of the Umpire, (including enforcement of pendente lite orders).
    3. 16. The Court shall have leave to assess sanctions, counsel fees, costs, and other relief to a litigant for failure to comply with the Umpire’s decision and in order to obtain compliance with the Umpire’s decision, whether pendente lite or final.  Thus, either party may seek enforcement of the Umpire’s rulings, whether pendente lite or final, by a summary application to the trial court.  Notwithstanding any other provision of this Consent Order, a pendente lite decision of the Umpire shall not be subject to review by the Court.

SCHEDULING & SCOPE OF HEARING:

    1. 17. The ADR shall be scheduled in accordance with the directions of the Umpire pursuant to the APDRA, Section 11.  A schedule of hearing dates shall be set in advance for the convenience of the litigants, counsel (if any) and the witnesses.  The matter shall be conducted day to day until completed to the extent practicable.  The hearing shall be conducted at the Umpire’s office located at ___________________________________________________________________.
    2. 18. The proceeding shall be transcribed by a court reporter, with the original to be retained by the Umpire unless either party seeks judicial review pursuant to paragraph 10, at which time the Umpire shall transmit the original transcript to the Court.  The cost of said Court Reporter shall be paid  ___________ percent by Plaintiff and ___________ percent by the Defendant, without prejudice, subject to allocation by the Umpire.

CHOICE & APPLICATION OF LAW:

    1. 19. The Umpire’s decision shall be made pursuant to the laws of the State of New Jersey.  The Umpires are specifically required to apply to the applicable law (statutory and case authority) to the issues and facts presented for resolution.

FINDINGS OF FACT & CONCLUSIONS OF LAW:

    1. 20. Within 15 days of the conclusion of the ADR proceeding, the Umpires shall render a written decision, which shall include reasonably detailed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law (in conformity with New Jersey law), upon which the ADR award is based.
    2. 21. All orders entered heretofore shall have the same force and effect as if this proceeding was being conducted in the Superior Court of New Jersey.

SETTLEMENT DISCUSSIONS:

    1. 22. In the event the parties, at any time, request that the Umpire participate in settlement discussions, each party thereby waives his or her right to seek to disqualify the Umpire from further participation on the hearing and from rendering a final decision.
    2. 23. To the extent any provision of this Order conflicts with provisions of this Act, this Order shall take precedence.  To the extent this Order is silent on issues included within the Act, the Act shall control.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Amended Dual Judgment of Dissolution shall be submitted to the Court separately upon resolution of issues through mediation or decision of all issues through arbitration.  

__________________________________________

HONORABLE RUTH GINSBURG, J.S.C.

We hereby consent to the aforementioned provisions: 

___________________________________   _____________________________

EDWARD WEINSTEIN, ESQ. LISA JONES

Attorney for the Plaintiff Plaintiff

___________________________________ ______________________________

JOE LAWYER, ESQ. MARY JONES

Attorney for the Defendant