Most likely your case was assigned a Trial Setting Conference (“TSC”) date, sometimes known as a Trial Readiness Conference (or TRC). In general, your attorney will appear at the TSC and in most cases you will not be required to attend this hearing.
The judge will determine if the case is ready for trial, if discovery is completed and if all disclosure documents have been exchanged.
What Is a Trial Setting Conference For?
The purpose of the TSC is for the judge to determine whether the case is ready for trial and to ensure that discovery is completed and that all of the disclosure documents have been exchanged (such as the final Declaration of Disclosure, which must be exchanged no less than 45 days prior to trial).
What Happens at a Trial Setting Conference?
The judge will ask questions about the case to ascertain whether it is ready for trial and how long the trial is likely to take. If the case is indeed ready to proceed to trial, the court will set a Mandatory Settlement Conference (or MSC) as well as a trial date.
Earlier, you placed your case “at-issue” to move it to the court’s trial calendar. Eventually you will be ordered to appear at a court-supervised settlement discussion known as the Readiness and Settlement Conference if your case will take more than one day.
While settling your case favorably is your objective, the court’s goal is to lighten its calendar by reducing the court days of trial. If your case will take a day or less of court time to try, it may go directly to trial without a court-supervised settlement conference.
Court assistance may be available without waiting until this mandatory conference. Whether such assistance is available depends on whether your County Family Law Court has a settlement conference judge available. If at any time you believe it would help, your attorney can ask a judge to meet with all of you for a voluntary settlement conference. This judge usually won’t preside at trial because of confidences that may be disclosed to the judge for settlement purposes only.
A court-supervised conference is especially useful when your spouse, who has been taking a hard-line position, hears the judge agree with you on the issue holding up the settlement. That should be all it takes to bring the two of you together for a mutually beneficial settlement. In the event that your county does not offer such a settlement judge, it may be advantageous and cost-effective to hire a retired judge to conduct a private mediation session, especially if you and your attorney feel that the involvement of a proactive settlement-orientated judge would help resolve many or all of the issues in your case.
What to Expect After the Trial Settling Conference?
In the normal course of events, your divorce case will be set or placed on the court’s calendar for your Mandatory Settlement Conference (“MSC”) sometime after your attorney has asked for a trial. Your attorney will prepare your MSC Brief telling your side of the case, which will be presented to the judge and the opposing party.
Don’t be disappointed when you appear for the conference and find many other cases set for the same time. The attorneys are expected to conference with each other and involve the judge only when it will help get through a problem area. Have no fear about being shortchanged; judges traditionally stay as long as it takes if it will help settle a case.
Be ready to give and take. Of course, try to give something you don’t care about (without letting this be known) in return for something that means a lot. If you’re close to settling, consider splitting the difference to save the several thousand dollars your trial may cost.