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Mandatory Settlement Conference

Settlement is the ideal end to any family law case. Because of the personal nature of family law cases, it is often best for the parties to reach an agreement and move on with separate lives. In comparison to litigation and trial, settlement may foster a continued relationship between the parties. Family law is unique because many times, after the case is over, the parties must still carry on some type of relationship. In civil cases, after litigation and trial, there are very few circumstances in which the parties must continue to communicate and interact. Issues like custody and visitation and ongoing support inextricably tie family law parties together long after the case is over.

Legislators in California and judicial officers throughout San Diego and Del Mar also encourage parties to settle family law matters. Not only is settlement in the best interest of the parties, it reduces the strain on the family law court system. Before the court will assign a trial date, the parties are required to attend a Mandatory Settlement Conference (MSC) An MSC is an informal hearing that is usually conduced by a local experienced family law attorney. The judge briefly meets with the parties before the MSC and makes sure all parties and lawyers are accounted for. It is common practice then for both parties and their lawyers to meet outside of the courtroom with the settlement judge (experienced family law attorney).

The settlement judge has extensive experience. From this perspective, the settlement judge can help the parties reach an agreement by giving predictions regarding what a judge is likely to order in the case. With this information on the judge’s potential ruling, the parties are likely to feel more comfortable negotiating. The parties may agree to adopt the judge’s likely ruling or, if it is in the best interest of the parties, create their own settlement. Settlement gives the parties the power to decide the outcome of their case.

Every participant must come prepared to a settlement conference. As part of the MSC process, either the parties or their lawyers must submit a Settlement Conference Brief to the settlement judge and the opposing party. The Settlement Conference Brief must contain information about the case and all issues that are currently being contested. This brief will allow the settlement judge to prepare for the MSC by becoming familiar with the case.

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.