In a divorce, a judge may order a mandatory settlement conference. This meeting is held between the parties, a court-appointed mediator or judge, and the divorce attorneys representing each party. The settlement conference is typically scheduled 30 days before trial. This gives the parties a final opportunity to settle before going to trial. However if your case will take a day or less of court time to try, it may go directly to trial without a court-supervised settlement conference.
Preparation: Prior to the conference, each party is required to file a brief. The brief outlines the facts of the case, the arguments they intend to make, an itemized list of relevant financial information and the requested settlement agreement. If you have a divorce attorney representing you, they will file this brief on your behalf.
Mediated Settlement Conferences: If your settlement conference is through a mediator, you will follow the mediator’s procedures, which usually are explained to you prior to, or at the beginning of the conference. Typically, both parties meet and present their sides at the beginning of the conference. Mediators may point out to each party the weaknesses of their arguments, potential liabilities and possible outcomes. Parties may then begin to negotiate potential settlements and are required to remain at the conference until either a settlement is reached or until the mediator feels that no settlement is possible.
Judicial Settlement Conferences: You may have a conference in front of a judge or judicial officer. These conferences are much more similar to a trial and are frequently more law-oriented. Each party will present their side and the judge asks questions based on the law. The parties may remain in the same room or the judge may separate them at any given time. The judge will be more interested in what the law says about the facts than the facts themselves.
Settlement: If you reach a settlement during the conference, the settlement agreement will be drafted either by the divorce attorneys or by the mediator. You want to get your settlement in writing and signed by everyone quickly while all the details are fresh. Once the agreement is written and signed, a judge will review it and sign an order making it binding. In cases were the parties only agree on a few things, then a partial settlement occurs which is binding, but a judge will consider the other issues at trial.
Contact Thorsteinson Law Group to help you with your divorce. We provide complimentary consultations, and are dedicated to helping you through the divorce process. Brett Thorsteinson is a divorce attorney who will advocate for your rights.