Stage 4 – Early Settlement Panel
During the discovery phase, settlement discussions to resolve the divorce case will be ongoing. If, however, your case is not settled by a date scheduled by the court, we will be required to appear before the “early settlement panel” (ESP). The panel consists of two attorneys with at least 10 years experience who are asked by the court to volunteer several times per year. A summary of the issues is presented (called an ESP Statement). The Panel will discuss your issues and provide recommendations as to a resolution. If both parties accept the recommendation, a judge will issue a divorce before leaving the courthouse that day. I’ve served as an ESP Panelist for over a decade. The vast majority of cases will resolve at ESP.
If the case does not resolve, the court will meet with the attorneys, discuss the issues, check on the status of any still-outstanding discovery and expert reports, refer us to another, deeper level of mediation, and set dates for an Intensive Settlement Conference with court and set initial trial dates.