What should I expect from a case management conference?
After you have served your spouse with divorce papers, and they have responded in kind, the next phase is a court hearing. This stage is an important part of court procedure that takes place even before a trial begins. The hearing is commonly referred to as a Case Management Conference (CMC).
What is a Case Management Conference?
A case management conference is an initial hearing where the parties in a divorce and their attorneys meet with the judge to discuss the main issues of the case. The primary objective of this initial hearing is to allow the court to keep track of the case and ensure it is proceeding as it should. During this conference, the judge will want to determine the following:
- Whether the parties in a divorce have settled any pertinent issues
- Whether the parties need more information from each other
- Whether the parties want to try and resolve their issues through a settlement
- Whether the parties are ready for a trial
What Should You Expect During a Case Management Conference?
Before the case management conference is held, you are expected to file a financial disclosure form. This form should indicate your income, expenses, assets, and debts. During the case management conference, the judge will review the financial disclosure forms of both parties in an attempt to get a picture of the financial position of the parties. This information will help them when ruling on spousal support, child support, and division of property.
If you have a minor child, the court is likely to send you to mandatory mediation. During this session, the court will offer you a counselor, therapist, or mediator to help you formulate a parenting plan. The court will then set a date for you to return to court and state whether you and your spouse have agreed on a parenting plan.
Setting the Date for Trial
As stated earlier, one of the reasons for a case management conference is to push the case to its conclusion. Many judges aim to conclude cases within a year and will want to know the amount of time both sides need for discovery, and when both sides will be ready for trial.
Some judges issue temporary rulings during a CMC. These include orders for alimony, child support, child visitation, and exclusive possession of a car or home.
Another item that judges might address during a case management conference is misbehavior by one of the parties in the case. If there has been a violation of an injunction, refusal to pay bills, or interference with visitation, the judge will intervene to admonish the guilty party.
Settlement of Issues
Some judges use the case management conference as a forum for settling as many issues as possible before the trial. Furthermore, the judge may resolve the entire case during the conference or reduce the case to a hearing of major issues like division of property and the amount of child support.
After a case management conference, the court will compile a report featuring what was discussed and the dates for other hearings including the trial where applicable.
The Take Away
A case management conference is the court’s way of ensuring that your divorce case is proceeding without any problems. It also helps the court track the progress of your case, and where possible, settle a few minor issues to set the stage for a trial if a settlement is not forthcoming. During a CMC, be prepared with your financial disclosure documents and other crucial evidence to prove your case. It may be advisable to consult a lawyer to help you with the preparations of this critical phase of a divorce proceeding.