After the discovery period is completed, you have the opportunity to go before the “early settlement panel.” This panel is made up of three extremely experienced marital attorneys who will hear both parties’ positions and advise each spouse’s attorney based on, in their opinion, what they think a judge’s ruling will be on the case.
Before appearing before the panel, you and your spouse exchange settlement proposals which give both parties and their attorneys an idea of their spouse’s suggestions on how to resolve issues surrounding child custody, dividing of the assets, etc. There should be no surprises at the early settlement panel hearing; both attorneys present their client’s settlement proposals and then the panel gives their opinion—which is non-binding, but highly recommended.
If you and your spouse can come to an agreement at the early settlement panel you can be divorced that very day, saving time, money, and more emotional strain. If you decide not take the panel’s advice and settle that day, while the process could go on for several more months, you will at least have a better idea of where you and your spouse stand on the important issues, and how much more negotiating you will have to undergo. Communication is always a good thing.