If a case has not settled earlier, settlement is often reached at a mandatory settlement conference. A mandatory settlement conference is usually held a few months to a few weeks prior to your trial date. It’s a date set by the court for the parties and counsel to discuss settlement at the courthouse.
A Chance to Settle Before Trial
The settlement conference usually occurs approximately one month prior to the trial date. Attendance by both parties and counsel is required. The settlement conference will often take place in the cafeteria or some other convenient location at the courthouse.
The best preparation for the mandatory settlement conference is knowledge of the probable settlement range.
Depending on how well you get along with your spouse, you and your attorneys will sit at the table or you can sit somewhere with your attorney and he or she will move between you and the other attorney to discuss a resolution.
Negotiations During the Settlement Conference
The mechanics of the settlement conference depend upon the dynamics of the case and the methods that seem to be working. If the attorneys think the input of the judge might be helpful in resolving an issue, they meet with the judge in chambers to discuss the case. Unless it is agreed upon otherwise, the judge’s opinions are advisory and not binding. Chamber conferences often occur on the trial day as well.
These negotiations are challenging in that they often seem to go slowly and then speed up rapidly. You will need to be prepared for this unpredictability. Following the theory of “striking while the iron is hot,” it is important to take immediate advantage of a good offer. You should not, however, rush into an agreement that is not acceptable to you just to get the matter over with; you and your attorney should be willing to discuss an issue for as long as necessary in order to come to a conclusion.
The best preparation for the mandatory settlement conference is knowledge of the probable settlement range. A willingness to be open-minded and flexible in achieving your goals is helpful.