What exactly is a pretrial conference?
There are many stops on the road before a divorce trial takes place. Typically you will have at least two court appearances, if not more, before the merits hearing. One of those court appearance is a pretrial conference or sometimes called a settlement conference. At the pretrial conference, a judge (not the judge who will preside over the actual trial, generally a retired judge) will try and help both sides reach an amicable resolution. If you’re able to work through the disputes, this can be a great opportunity to settle before more court appearances. Your attorney should bring a draft agreement to your pretrial conference, as most people get divorced on the day of the pretrial conference.
It’s not always that easy. Sometimes you can’t agree on enough to reach a settlement and your case will still have to be tried in court. At the very least, the pretrial conference gives you the opportunity to narrow down the issues, have a clear understanding of the other side, and get some good insight into how the judge will view matters.
In a perfect world, every pretrial conference would end with either a settlement or helpful feedback. In the real world of our very overburdened court system, it doesn’t or can’t always occur so flawlessly. Sometimes even when you do everything correctly, you still may not be able to come to an agreement, or you may get little or no feedback from the court.
In conclusion, I recommend going into your pretrial conference with an open mind and a willingness to try to come to a settlement agreement.