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What is an offer to settle in a family court case?
You or your partner can make an offer to settle at any time during the family court process. And you can make more than one offer to settle.
An offer to settle is an offer made by one party to the other party to settle some or all the issues in your case. For example, you can make an offer to settle about how you are willing to resolve issues of child support and spousal support, and leave issues about dividing property to the court.
There are Family Law Rules that tell you what is needed at every step in a court case. Rule 18: Offers to settle tells you how to make and accept an offer. There is no form that you must use to make an offer, but you must make sure you follow the rules.
You can accept an offer, reject an offer, or make a counter-offer. You can make an offer at any time, even before starting a family law case.
The rules about offers to settle are meant to encourage people to resolve their issues without going to a motion or trial. For example, the rule about costs consequences rewards those who make a reasonable offer to settle. The rule says that the person who didn't accept the offer may have to pay a part of the other person's legal fees.
You can talk to a lawyer about making an offer to settle. If you can't afford to hire a lawyer for your whole case, some lawyers provide "unbundled services" or "limited scope retainer" services. This means you pay them to help you with part of your case.
If you can't afford to hire a lawyer at all, you may be able to find legal help in other places.
Time limits and the issue of costs only apply to offers to settle made during a motion or trial. It does not apply to offers made during case conferences or settlement conferences. At those conferences, offers are discussed openly with the judge and your partner to try and agree on your issues.