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New Jersey Settlement Agreements
In the New Jersey family court system there is a tremendous pressure to settle divorce cases. The plain truth of the matter is that there are too many divorce cases, and not enough judges to have a trial for all of them. 98% of divorce cases are settled before a trial. Moreover, going to trial is very expensive. Legal fees can be high. Moreover, the parties will have to spend a significant amount of monies on expert witnesses to testify at trial. The parties will also have to produce real estate appraisers, pension experts, stock market experts, business appraisers, and or accountants. These experts are not cheap, and they charge thousands of dollars to come to trial and testify. Therefore, in most cases it is a win-win situation if a reasonable settlement can be achieved.
Settlement agreements are agreements where divorcing couples determine their rights and responsibilities after the divorce. A settlement agreement, or a PSA (Property Settlement Agreement) is a contract between the spouses, and it determines the issues in the divorce case. The issues addressed in the PSA include alimony and child support, custody, parenting time, debts, and distribution of property subject to division. By negotiating a settlement, the parties can make their own legally enforceable contract, and avoid years of litigation, expensive legal fees, and years of stress.
A fair property settlement agreement can be achieved by having meetings between the parties' attorneys, through mediation, or court-sponsored early settlement programs. When the parties enter into a settlement agreement, that agreement is then made a part of the final judgement of divorce and has the same effect as a judgment entered by the court as long as the settlement agreement is not unconscionable. In most cases, the parties reach an agreement at the Early Settlement Panel. Once a settlement is reached, the lawyers will tell the court clerk. Thereafter, the parties will go before the judge, and the terms of the settlement will be placed on the record, or explained to the court. Thereafter, the lawyers will prepare a more formal divorce judgment than contains all of the terms of the agreement.
If the divorce is being filed under one of the seven fault grounds (including extreme cruelty, adultery, abandonment, substance or alcohol addiction, institutionalization, deviant sexual conduct and incarceration), the 18 month separation period, required for a no-fault divorce, is waived. However, each ground for divorce has its own stipulations.
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