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The Vicinage 13 Judiciary is involved in the administration of many Complementary Dispute Resolution (CDR) and other programs which are available to the public to assist in the settlement of disputes without the need to go to court.
Two major areas of CDR are Mediation and Arbitration.
Mediation is often a preferred option for cases that involve ongoing relationships such as neighbors, friends, relatives, co-workers, and others. In this process, individuals trained in Mediation assist the involved parties to resolve their dispute through a structured and confidential form of negotiation. The goal of mediation is a mutual agreement by the two parties to resolve the dispute.
Arbitration is a process through which a trained neutral party will listen to both sides of a case and render a decision or make an award based on the information that he or she is presented with. Arbitration can be either binding, meaning that the two parties must abide by the decision of the arbitrator, or non binding, meaning that either of the two parties may have an option to appeal the decision of the arbitrator.

Programs Available

Below is a brief description of the CDR and other programs available in Vicinage 13, including information about who you can contact if you wish to utilize the program or volunteer to participate in the program.

  1. Matrimonial Early Settlement Panel (MESP)
  2. Custody/Visitation Mediation Program
  3. Juvenile/Family Crisis Intervention
  4. Detention/Shelter Monitoring
  5. Automobile Negligence Arbitration
  6. Personal Injury Arbitration
  7. Contract Arbitration
  8. Court Sanctioned Mediation
  9. Foreclosure Mediation
  10. Special Civil Part and Small Claims Mediation
  11. Juvenile Conference Committees*
  12. Child Placement Review Board*
  13. Supervised Visitation*
  14. Municipal Court Mediation*
  15. Drug Court*

* Indicates programs that are staffed by volunteers from the community. Please see the section on Volunteer Opportunities below for more information on how to volunteer

Matrimonial Early Settlement Panel (MESP)

The MESP is operated by the Somerset County Bar Association. There are two panels sitting every Monday morning and cases are referred by the Judge at the calendar call. The purpose of an MESP Panel is to attempt to resolve a divorce and have the two parties agree to the terms of a divorce, without the need for a trial. If the case is settled by the panel, it is put on the record the same day. Contact the Family Division of the Judiciary in your county for additional information.

Custody/Visitation Mediation Program

Contested custody disputes are referred to this program in an attempt to reach an agreement without a court hearing. Litigants attend a multi-stage program and if consent is not reached, a custody investigation is completed by the Family Division. Cases are then scheduled for trial. Contact the Family Division of the Judiciary in your county for additional information.

Juvenile/Family Crisis Intervention

The Family Crisis Intervention Unit (FCIU) attempts to resolve family crises through early intervention. They respond to a family crisis with counseling and referrals to appropriate agencies. If the family situation cannot be stabilized through their intervention, a petition is filed with the Family Division and the matter is scheduled for court. Contact the Family Division of the Judiciary in your county for additional information.

Detention/Shelter Monitoring

The Family Division provides a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, on-call monitoring program. It is responsible for the screening of requests to place juveniles in detention or shelter facilities. If a juvenile is detained, the Family Division must schedule a hearing before a Judge no later than the morning following the juvenile's placement, including weekends and holidays. Contact the Family Division of the Judiciary in your county for additional information.

Civil Arbitration

  1. Disputes are submitted to experienced and knowledgeable neutral attorneys or retired Superior Court judges to hear arguments, review evidence and render an award/decision. These matters can often be concluded more quickly than traditional court proceedings. Civil Arbitration is statutorily mandated (required) for auto negligence, personal injury and certain cases including contracts or book accounts.  

Court Sanctioned Mediation

Mediation is a dispute resolution process in which an impartial third-party mediator facilitates negotiations amongst the parties to help them reach a mutually acceptable settlement.

Foreclosure Mediation

A dispute resolution process in which an impartial person helps parties negotiate a mutually acceptable settlement, this helps foster an open and effective channel of communication between homeowners and lenders. All foreclosure mediation cases for Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren counties are managed by the Somerset Civil Division. For more information about the program:

Special Civil Part and Small Claims Settlement Programs

CDR for all trial ready cases (such as breach of contract, property damage due to an auto accident, defective workmanship, bad check claims, return of money for down payment, professional malpractice) that would benefit from the intervention of an independent third party (law clerk or other trained staff) to aid in the settlement of the dispute. Contact the Civil Case Management office in your county for additional information.

Juvenile Conference Committee *

Juvenile Conference Committees consist of trained citizen volunteers who informally hear Juvenile Delinquency matters referred by the court. A successful appearance before the committee by the juvenile and his/her parents negates the necessity of a formal in-court appearance by the family and allows the juvenile to have no formal "record" with the court system. Contact the Family Division of the Judiciary in your county for additional information.

Child Placement Review Board *

The Child Placement Review Board is made up of trained volunteers from the community who meet monthly to review the placement of children who have been placed outside of their homes by the Division of Youth and Family Services. They report their recommendations to the Family Part Judge who then orders continued placement or return to the home. Contact the Family Division of the Judiciary in your county for additional information.

Supervised Visitation*

Upon order of the court, a volunteer is assigned to supervise the visitation of a child with the non custodial parent or another party. The use of this program is meant to be very short term, pending agency reports or some type of change of circumstances. Contact the Family Division of the Judiciary in your county for additional information.

Municipal Court Mediation *

This program assists the Municipal Courts in resolving minor disputes within the community. All 59 Municipal Courts in the Vicinage 13 counties of Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren have access to a mediation panel. For more information about such programs in your community, contact the Municipal Court Administrator in your town, or contact:

Drug Courts*

Drug Court is a highly specialized team process that functions within the existing Superior Court structure to address nonviolent drug related cases. It is unique in the criminal justice environmenht because it builds a close collaborative relationship between criminal justice and drug treatment professionals. Within a cooperative courtroom atmosphere, the judge heads a team of court staff, attorneys, probation officers, substance abuse evaluators, and treatment professionals all working in concert to support and monitor a participant's recovery. Together, they maintain a critical balance of authority, supervision, support, and encouragement.
The drug court program is rigorous, requiring intensive supervision based on frequent drug testing and court appearances, along with tightly structured regimens of treatment and recovery services. The emphasis is on recovery and swift intervention when needed.

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