What Happens At Your First Divorce Court Conference

For most clients in a contested divorce the Preliminary Conference will be the first time that you go to court for your case. The Preliminary Conference is scheduled at the request of either attorney and usually takes place between 4 to 6 weeks from the filing of the request. Both attorneys and clients are required to attend.

The purpose of the conference is to allow the attorneys to meet with the judge and prepare an order that will provide a schedule for the exchange of financial records and related information, choose experts if necessary to evaluate the value of real property, business interests, retirement assets, licenses and degrees. In addition, if there is a custody dispute the judge may also appoint an attorney for the child(ren). The order will be reviewed with you before the judge reads it and it will be necessary for the clients and attorneys to sign it.

While each judge determines how to handle the conference, most judges have the conference with just the attorneys in their court chambers. Many judges will have their law clerk handle the conference and then the law clerk will have the judge sign the order when finished. Most, but not all, judges do not directly speak with the clients at the Preliminary Conference unless there are some unusual problems or if it is the choice of the judge to talk directly to the clients. At the end of the conference the court will also select the next date for the clients to return to court for a status conference. The purpose of the status conference is to determine if the evaluations are proceeding and the exchange of financial information is taking place.

At the Preliminary Conference the judge can also address immediate issues regarding child support, spousal support and custody. Many judges, if there is a lack of agreement, will require a motion to formally determine the issue, while other judges will take a more immediate hands on approach and tell the clients to come up with a schedule of parenting time or the judge will conduct a hearing and decide the schedule.

It is important that your attorney is prepared and knowledgeable about your case since this is the first time the judge will be hearing anything about your divorce. Having a matrimonial attorney that is a regular practitioner before the judge is also helpful since each judge has their own style and way of conducting the conference. Please call my office if you would like to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with me.