Step 8: The pretrial conference; for many the last step

Hi there,

Done well, by both counsel and the judge, the pretrial conference is a great opportunity to settle a divorce case. That is if you have not already settled it at the four way meeting, in which case you probably will get divorced on the day of the pretrial conference.

If you haven’t settled, this is the time for the attorneys to write a memo that tells the story of your circumstances and sets forth in the best light possible what you want, and why you want it.  By the time of the pretrial there should be no open questions as to values or assets.  If there has been a custody issue the Guardian Ad Litem report should be in and should have been reviewed. Both sides must file an up to date financial statement and should file an asset chart as well.

The idea behind the pretrial conference is that the judge can read the memos and the financials; ask the lawyers if they have anything to add then the judge can tell everyone what he or she thinks about the areas of dispute. Then the parties and their lawyers (who hopefully have also brought draft agreements with them) go out in the hallways and try to reach an overall settlement. The court is always willing to take that settlement and get you divorced that day. If you can’t agree on everything and your case has to be tried then at least you can narrow the issues and your lawyer has gotten some good insight into how the judge may view matters.

In a perfect world this would happen more or less this way every time, in the real world of the very overburdened court system it doesn’t /can’t always occur. You may find yourself in the frustrating position of having done everything correctly and getting little or no feedback from the court. Some cases truly do need to be tried as well. There are often valuation issues or contribution issues that are so disparate that they require a trial, and perhaps, most unfortunately, custody cases often require a trial.

But…. easily 95% of all cases settle before, at or close to the pretrial and settle as a result of the work done in preparing for the pretrial.

Best,

Nancy
 

7 Comments


  1. I am so thankful that you wrote this article. I feel like it was truly meant for me and my current situation. I am going to pretrial on Jan 15, 2010. I am representing myself, very tough. I have been trying to get divorced for 8 years now, with one year of separation before I filed in 2003. I appreciate your “to the point” article, it made sense to me:) Thank you so very much.
    Shalyn Sanders


  2. Dear Shalyn,
    Thank you so much for the kind comment. I hope all goes well for you at your pretrial.
    Best,
    Nancy


  3. I am currently in the process of getting a divorce. We have agreed to everything except child support and that has been an issue because he is in the military and claims he only pays child support on his taxable income and not on any of his allowances, etc. I have been told this is not true and want it to be determined based on all his income. We have a pre-trial conference set for September and I was curious if we do not agree by then what will happen?


  4. Hi there,
    At the pretrial, the court will do its best to help you settle. You should write a pretrial memo that tells the court what is going on and be prepared to work with a family service officer to try and resolve the outstanding issues.
    Good luck,
    Nancy
    This Blog/Web Site and email response is made available by Attorney Nancy R. Van Tine and Burns & Levinson LLP for educational purposes only – i.e. to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice in relation to any situation you or anyone else may have. There is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher, Attorney Nancy R. Van Tine or Burns & Levinson LLP. The information on this Blog/Web Site and email response should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state engaged by you for such purpose.


  5. I have been going on a year with this. At first my atty, and my “wifes” atty had been talking drafted an agreement, we sent to them. It is almost a year later, and no response on the agreement drafted. I recently sought new reprensatation, and gave a copy of the agreement to my new Atty, and she found the agreement fair. My “wife” has decided not to use an Atty, and is refusing to get back to my Atty, for a 3 way. She has all my information and statements, and I have yet to see any of hers. This after several request etc. Is this typical for the non cooperativeness?


  6. Hi Jim,
    No this seems very lackadaisical. Your attorney does have remedies she can pursue in the court to get your wife’s documents. Good luck!
    Best,
    Nancy
    This Blog/Web Site and email response is made available by Attorney Nancy R. Van Tine and Burns & Levinson LLP for educational purposes only – i.e. to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice in relation to any situation you or anyone else may have. There is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher, Attorney Nancy R. Van Tine or Burns & Levinson LLP. The information on this Blog/Web Site and email response should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state engaged by you for such purpose.


  7. We have met for the 4 way conference and agreed on a settlement. Now, my husband is threatening to change his mind. I know that his lawyer filed papers with the court to have everything ready for court, based on this agreement. Can he actually scrap everything we’ve done?

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