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How Does A New Jersey Divorce Case Move Through The Court System?

By: Kevin W. Ku, Esq.

Divorce is a difficult, stressful, and emotional time in a person’s life. For most people, this is the first time that they are going through such a situation, and not knowing what could happen can cause a great deal of anxiety and stress. While every New Jersey divorce case is different, most cases will go through the same process. Here are the typical steps in the process for a New Jersey divorce:

Filing a Complaint for Divorce

First, you file a Complaint for Divorce and it is served upon your spouse. Then your spouse may file a responsive pleading, which is like an answer, so that they can participate in the divorce matter.


You are then scheduled to appear in Court where deadlines are scheduled for discovery. If you have children from your marriage and custody is an issue, the Court will schedule you and your spouse to attend a custody/parenting time mediation, in which you and your spouse will meet with a court mediator to see if you are able to resolve your custody issues. After that first Court appearance, you will go through a period called discovery, where, among other things, financial documentations are exchanged between you and your spouse, appraisals on property and other assets are completed (if applicable), and exchanging custody questions/answers (if applicable).

Early Settlement Panel

Once discovery is completed, the Court sends you and your spouse to attend Early Settlement Panel, which is often abbreviated as ESP. The Early Settlement Panel consists of two to three neutral volunteer experienced family law attorneys who assist in resolving your matter.

Economic Mediation

If you are unable to resolve your case at Early Settlement Panel, the Court will send you and your spouse to attend economic mediation. The mediator will be agreed to by both parties, which can be either an attorney or a retired judge.

Intensive Settlement Conference

If you are unable to resolve your case through economic mediation, you will then be required to appear in Court for an Intensive Settlement Conference where you and your spouse will meet with a Judge in an attempt to resolve any outstanding issues. You may participate through multiple Intensive Settlement Conferences depending on the complexity of your outstanding issues.


If you are still unable to resolve your case, you will be scheduled for Trial. Depending on the Court’s availability, your trial dates could be on consecutive days or spread out over several days over a period of months, depending on the complexity of the issues until your matter is tried to conclusion.

Timeline to Trial

The whole process from the filing of a Complaint for Divorce until resolution or trial depends on the issues in your case. Usually for cases that go all the way to trial, it could take at least 12 months before a Court even schedules your case for trial. The Court strongly encourages all parties to resolve their cases prior to a trial by utilizing Early Settlement Panel, Economic Mediation, and Intensive Settlement Conference.

If you have any further questions regarding the complex divorce process and need an experienced legal team to guide you through your divorce, contact Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark, L.L.C. today.