Pre-trial divorce conferences in Massachusetts are much less intimidating than they sound. They provide you and your spouse with a chance to settle your case and afford you an invaluable glimpse into how the judge will rule if you go to trial.
Pre-trial conferences usually take place six months after the date of filing the Complaint for Divorce.
At the pre-trial conference you or your attorney need all the facts of your case to present to the judge, such as the values of your assets and the extent of your marital debt.
It usually takes several months to gather this information through discovery methods, such as subpoenas, document requests and interrogatories — written questions that you and your spouse both must answer under penalty of perjury.
Prior to your court date for the pre-trial conference, both parties and their respective attorneys, if any, are required to meet in person at what is called a “four-way conference.” The purpose of this is to encourage discussion about possible settlement prior to the pre-trial conference, so that the process of resolving issues might have begun before the case gets in front of a judge.
There is no testimony at a pre-trial conference. If represented by an attorney, parties will not generally be asked to speak, although some judges have been known to ask the parties a few questions directly.
Each party is required to file with the court a memorandum summarizing the procedural history and positions on disputed issues. Different judges have different notices for a pre-trial conference laying out the structure for their memorandums.
After listening to each side, the judge will provide insight on how he or she will rule on the issues at trial, assuming no new information comes to light before that time that would change his or her opinion.
After a pretrial conference, spouses usually know if they’re fighting a losing battle by going to trial. For example, if you haven’t settled with your spouse because you feel you deserve a larger than 50 percent share of the marital property and the judge states at the pretrial conference that he or she would not rule in your favor, you might not want to spend the time and money on trial because you’re probably not going to get what you seek anyway. The judge who holds the pretrial conference is almost always the same judge who hears your case at trial.
After you have an idea how the judge is going to rule, you can try to negotiate a settlement to avoid trial. You can take some time to think about what the judge said. If you want more time, the judge may assign another pre-trial conference or schedule the case for trial.
The court won’t allow your divorce to hang in limbo while you make up your mind, so the judge schedules this date to make sure your case is resolved one way or the other in the foreseeable future. You can continue to negotiate with your spouse and settle any time up until your trial date. Often cases settle shortly after the pre-trial conference.
Should you be in the midst of a divorce or contemplating divorce, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar either through email or telephone 978-844-405 to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation consultation to discuss your particular situation.