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What is a settlement conference in my family law court case and what happens at one?
If you and your partner haven't sorted out your issues after one or more case conferences, the judge may schedule a settlement conference.
The goal of a settlement conference is to help you and your partner settle the issues you still don't agree on. Every conference is a chance for you to come closer to agreeing on your issues with your partner.
There are Family Law Rules that tell you what is needed at every step in a court case. Rule 17: Conferences tells you what you need to do to prepare for your settlement conference and what happens at one.
Settlement conferences are held either in a courtroom or a conference room at the courthouse. If you and your partner don't have lawyers, it's likely to be in a courtroom.
Usually there is a board near the entrance to the courthouse or outside each courtroom that lists the cases being heard in court that day with their room number. If you have trouble finding this list or your room, ask for help at the court counter.
Keep enough time in your schedule for your conference. You should plan to spend at least half a day in court. While conferences generally take about an hour, the judge may ask you and your partner to take time to discuss and try to resolve your issues.
You can talk to a lawyer who can help you with your settlement conference. 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.
If you need an interpreter or any special arrangement because of a disability, ask for special arrangements.
You can speak with any staff member at court or the Accessibility Coordinator at the courthouse about what you need.