Your first opportunity to avoid a lengthy custody battle in your divorce case is your parenting time mediation date. This will likely take place after the case management conference since that is when the court will order the parenting time mediation. The best part about this mediation is that is free and your lawyer is almost never present. Thus, it costs you nothing to attend. Furthermore, it is very successful. While it doesn’t help settle the custody and parenting time issues in every case, it does help to settle or at least narrow the issues in the vast majority of divorce cases. The key to the success of this program is that it employs very skilled mediators. However, both parents also need to go in there with an open mind.
If you are scheduled to attend parenting time mediation in your divorce case, speak to your divorce lawyer first to discuss what you should expect. Going in there with an open mind but realistic expectations can also help you successful settle your custody and parenting issues in the mediation. This is where your lawyer comes in. He or she needs to help you understand what you can hope to achieve and how to approach the mediation.
One of the first court appearances where you may actually get to see the judge in your New Jersey divorce case is the case management conference. This is an opportunity for your lawyer to fill out the Case Management Order which will govern what is due when, who has to do what and how some costs will be split. In many counties, the lawyers for both sides will fill out the form ahead of time and submit it to the court which thus prevents everyone from having to appear. However, some judges do no allow this. Furthermore, some cases may be complex and thus require an in-person appearance to discuss these issues with the judge. Most of the time, the clients don’t have to appear but you should check with your divorce lawyer to see what he or she wants you to do.
The issues in the case management order will involve discovery deadlines, appraisals of the house, pension and other items as well as child custody issues. Most courts will then give you an ESP date or at least notify you as to what month your ESP will be in.