What happens at Pretrial Conferences (also called "Settlement" or "Status" Conferences) in Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts?

Most of the time, when you go to court as part of your divorce, custody or support matter, you are doing so because you have some dispute with your spouse or child's other parent and you need the Judge at the Probate and Family Court to decide that issue for you.  That is what happens, for instance, at a Temporary Order or at a Trial.

Pretrial Conferences -- also called Settlement Conferences or Status Conferences -- are different.  The Judge is usually not going to make any decisions regarding the merits of your case at a Pretrial Conference. 

Rather, a Pretrial Conference is an opportunity for the parties, and their attorneys, to appear before the Judge who will preside over the Trial in your case.  At the Pretrial Conference, your attorney (or you, if you represent yourself) will explain to the Judge what the disputed issues are in your case and will provide a summary of what you expect the evidence will show at Trial regarding that issue.

For instance, suppose you and your spouse disagree on the amount of child support your spouse should pay to you, and this disagreement is based on your allegation that your spouse is not disclosing all of his/her income.  You would explain this to the Judge at the Pretrial Conference and summarize what you expect the evidence to show at Trial regarding your spouse's actual income.  Your spouse (or his/her attorney) would, of course, have a chance to make the same presentation.

Typically, the Judge then provides some feedback based on the summary that you (and your spouse) have provided to the Judge.  The purpose of this feedback is to assist the parties in settling the case by agreement (without having a Trial.)  If the parties are able to agree that day, they can generally submit a written Agreement for Judgment and conclude the case that day.  If not, then the Judge will most likely schedule the case for Trial (and may also schedule an additional Status Conference to take place before the Trial.)

Click here to learn more about what to expect when you go to the Probate and Family Court.

I hope this information has been helpful to you.  If you would like to discuss your own divorce, custody or support matter with me, click here to get direct access to my calendar to book a complimentary call.

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