Apart from mediation and collaborative family law, once a divorce or family law case is filed, below are some times in which a family law case can often settle.
A. Pretrial Conferences:
Pretrial or settlement conferences may be scheduled by the judge as a matter of routine, or a particular judge may only schedule them at the request of the parties. In either event, they provide for a meeting of the parties prior to trial. The pretrial conference may flush out procedural, evidentiary, or substantive issues. The realization of these issues and the looming cost of trial may help encourage both parties to settle.
Indeed, the judge usually require the parties to be present at the pretrial or settlement conference. If this is the case, the judge may be able to nudge the parties toward settlement. Even if the meeting does not result in a complete settlement, it may help narrow the issues moving forward.
Your attorney will want to consult local rules because individual circuit courts may have their own local rules governing pretrial conferences. These rules may relate to the scheduling of the conference, prior communications, or possible orders granted by the court.
B. Settlement conferences
Many domestic cases will settle without having to go to trial. There can be many reasons for this: one party is not ready for trial, one party does not want to go through a trial, or the parties, apart from emotional discord, may actually agree or be willing to compromise.
It is not a sign of weakness to discuss settlement. Each litigant may simply have their own timeline. They may need to cool down before they can honestly approach the topic of settlement. Or, they may need to be confronted with the less appealing prospects of depositions and trial.
Remember, settlement has tangible benefits. It can certainly reduce legal fees, but also and perhaps, more importantly, it can allow the parties to reach their own agreement. Parties are more likely to be happy with, and correspondingly be more likely to honor an agreement that reflects their own free will. Therefore, it may reduce the need for future litigation. A judicial solution, while equitable, may not be ideal for either party.
Many of the benefits of settlement particularly apply if there are children involved. Again, reaching a voluntary agreement allows the parties to tailor custody schedules to their own needs. Also, it can aid in the emotional healing of children by providing a resolution and a more ordinary schedule moving forward.
Further, your attorney will want to check local rules pertaining to settlement conferences for timing, the possibility of mandatory discovery and attendance policies. The judge may also issue a trial date before or at the conclusion of the settlement conference.
C. Case Management Conferences:
Case management conferences (as they are called in some counties) can also serve as a settlement opportunity. They provide an early opportunity for the parties to meet together before the judge. If nothing else, they help keep the case organized and moving forward to either settlement or trial.
D. Written Settlement Proposal/Settlement Meetings
Written settlement proposals can be exchanged at any time in a divorce of family law matter. They, like interrogatories, may help determine if an agreement can be reached now or in the future. Obviously, a client's direct input and authority is needed when an attorney drafts a settlement proposal. Many times, the first settlement proposal will be quite broad, while subsequent iterations can pin down the details of the agreement.
Informal settlement with the attorneys and the parties can provide a chance to discuss settlement outside of the view of the judge. Some regard these as less effective than the formal meetings discussed above, but they may still yield results. Bear in mind that this will not likely be a quick and easy process. Also, give forethought to issues such as location, facilities, and the structure of the meeting (will all parties meet in the same room or simply pass proposals through their attorneys).
E. Collaborative Family Law and Mediation
As referenced above, collaborative practice and mediation offers many parties other alternatives to try to settle their family law matter. Both processes are distinctively different, which makes it important to understand the nuances of both. However, Stange Law Firm, PC has attorneys who can help with both collaborative family law and mediation. To read more about collaborative family law and mediation, you can go to the links below:
- Collaborative Family Law
- Collaborative Practice and Mediation
- Alternative Dispute Resolution in Family Law
To learn more about the settlement process, and various times in which a family law case might settle, speaking with a family law attorney like those at Stange Law Firm, PC can help.
Keywords: settlement, uncontested divorce, settlement conference, pre-trial conference, case management conference