What is a Pretrial Conference and How Do I Prepare for One?

This Week’s Blog by Nicole M. DiGiose

  • In contested divorce proceedings, a Court will typically assign a case for a pretrial conference after all discovery has been completed and prior to assigning that case for trial.
  • A pretrial conference is a Court-mandated settlement meeting which occurs at the courthouse with a judge or special master.
  • Pretrial conferences are privileged settlement discussions. What occurs during a pretrial, including the content of any settlement offers, may not be introduced as evidence during a trial.

What is a Pretrial Conference?

A pretrial conference is a Court-mandated settlement meeting.  During a pretrial conference, your attorney will meet with your spouse’s attorney, as well as a judge or special master, who is an experienced matrimonial attorney who has volunteered his or her time. The meeting will take place in a conference room within the courthouse.  While you are required to be present for a pretrial conference, litigants typically do not actively participate in a pretrial conference.  During the pretrial conference, each attorney will present his or her view of the facts of the case, as well as each one’s proposal for settlement, to the judge or special master.  After hearing from both attorneys, the judge or special master will make a non-binding settlement recommendation.

When Will I Have a Pretrial Conference?

Pretrial conferences are regularly scheduled when parties enter into their Case Management Agreements.  A Case Management Agreement is entered into by both parties and their attorneys approximately ninety days after a divorce action has been commenced, and sets forth various dates by which certain tasks must be completed.  These tasks include discovery, depositions, and appraisals and valuations.  Pretrial conferences usually take place after all discovery has been completed, so as to allow each side to participate in an informed, meaningful settlement discussion. 

What Documents Must be Prepared for a Pretrial Conference?

According to the Superior Court for Family Matters Standing Orders, seven days before a pretrial conference, both sides must exchange a non-argumentative memorandum that sets forth the basic facts of the case, such as the ages of both parties and the minor children, if any, the length of the marriage, the causes for the breakdown of the marriage, and information related to each party’s education and income. Additionally, each side must exchange proposed orders, which outline the relief that party is seeking, including the amount and duration of alimony, the amount of child support, the division of property and the assignment of debts, and how parenting issues will be resolved.  Lastly, each side must submit current, sworn financial affidavits, and, in cases involving children, proposed Child Support Guidelines.

What Happens After a Pretrial Conference?

What occurs during a pretrial conference is privileged and therefore may not be introduced as evidence at a trial.  After the pretrial conference, your attorney will discuss the judge’s or special master’s recommendation with you.  Pretrial conferences often open the door for further settlement discussions to continue.  If a settlement is reached, your attorneys will prepare a Separation Agreement, which will outline the terms of the agreement.  You will then proceed to an Uncontested Divorce Hearing in order to conclude your divorce matter.  If a settlement is not reached, your case will be assigned for trial.

At Broder & Orland LLC, we have extensive experience in settling contested divorce matters, including at pretrial conferences throughout Fairfield County and Connecticut.  Our skilled attorneys will ensure that you are adequately prepared for a pretrial conference.