The Nassau County Supreme Court Matrimonial Part has recently provided
a new program that permits litigants to appear before court certified
Masters (attorneys whose practice is limited to matrimonial matters) to
obtain an opinion as to what a court would award if the case proceeded
to trial with the additional costs and increasing trauma that preparation
for trial would necessarily incur. It is hoped that such a program would
lead to agreed to settlements that would alleviate court congestion and
reduce the cost to litigate a case to conclusion.
It is to be remembered that once a case results in a settlement, the right
to appeal is lost. However, the finality that results has made this remedy
a much better choice for many clients.
The mediation process that is held before a special master is initially
without charge, and the resultant decision made is not binding on either
of the parties. Both parties will be represented by independent counsel
and submit their arguments why the financial facts of the case justify
an award of spousal and child support they propose, as well as a division
of assets. If the parties feel that the resultant determination by a master
is fair to both, a written agreement will be drawn and incorporated into
the divorce decree. If the parties cannot reach a settlement, they will
have several options. They can agree to continue the mediation with the
same master or request someone else. In that case, cost to continue will
be involved and the master’s time will be charged at $300 an hour
until the case is settled or withdrawn.
Just participating in the mediation process may well make it far easier
to reach a settlement during trial than without such advisory opinion.
It would be to every litigant’s benefit to discuss the mediation
process with his or her attorney and determine whether the program would
be of benefit to you. In this writer’s opinion, you really have
nothing to lose and may save a considerable amount of time, money and
mental distress by reaching a settlement before trial.
Preparation for trial can consume untold hours, and the resultant increase
of fees that will necessarily be incurred. Make certain to explore at
length with your lawyer these benefits before proceeding further with the
litigation of your case.