Step 7: The Four Way Meeting

Hi there,

This sounds vaguely improper but it is the term used to describe the Court mandated meeting between the parties and their lawyers that must take place prior to the pretrial conference.  This requirement is set forth in each Judges’ pretrial order. It is important that before this occurs substantially all of the discovery is done, the valuation reports and appraisals are complete and have been exchanged and the GAL report has been done and reviewed by the parties and counsel. This allows counsel to have done asset division charts showing various choices etc. Often the lawyers will have exchanged draft agreements as well. The parties’ financial statements should be updated and exchanged too.

The purpose of a four way conference is to try and settle the case. Even if the case can’t be settled at the four way, at least the parties and the attorneys may be able to narrow the issues they are arguing about. It is not uncommon to be able to resolve parenting issues and still be fighting about asset division or support.

This then sets the stage for the pretrial memo and the pretrial conference (to be discussed in future posts.)




  1. Hi Nancy, I have been divorced for 8 years but am in the midst of a modification requesting child support. I do not have an attorney and am representing myself pro se, defendant has council, (2 attorneys) even thou he says he can’t afford to provide child support…. We are having a 3 way conference today required by the order of the judge prior to our pre-trial court date which is Nov 1st. My question is, am I legally allowed to have someone sit with me during this pre-trail conference? Also, when I am at court and I’m sitting with the defendant and his lawyers, am I allowed to have someone (friend) sit with me/hear what is being discussed during negotiation? Thanks, MaryF

    1. Dear Mary,

      I hate to do this but I have to give you a lawyer’s answer: It depends. You should be able to have someone with you during the 3-way conference, especially if you say something like “this is stressful for me and I want to be sure I am going to remember correctly.” If the lawyers object though, you will need to go through with the 3-way, but you can take breaks to consult with your friend. In court, generally speaking, non lawyers, other than litigants, aren’t allowed up past the bar to the tables. (It’s from this that the phrase “passing the bar” is derived.) Again, you can ask, perhaps when you check in with the case manager in the morning. Some judges may allow it.

      That was a long answer, put more simply, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
      Good luck.


  2. That’s really interesting. I have never heard of a four way meeting like this. I am going through a divorce right now and it’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through. I can see why this would have slipped my mind. I’ll ask my lawyer about it.

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