Before a family law case can be heard in front of a judge on trial, there are many steps that need to be initiated that encourage the parties to settle disputes and issues from early on so that the matter does not have to end in trial. There are many reasons why it is better to stay away from taking your family law case to trial. These range from court expenses, to delayed settlements and long wait times, unpredictable outcomes, waste of judicial time etc.
Trial periods are long, expensive and can take a toll on your health and life. This is why settlement and trial management conferences were implemented to assist in resolving issues between parties in family law matters.
The purpose of a settlement conference is for both parties to come before a judge and discuss the issues in dispute and methods to resolve the issues without interference of the court. This conference follows after a case conference to which the judge has a duty to listen to each party, assess the issues at dispute and give their opinion as to about how your case will be decided should you go to trial. As a party to the proceedings, you have a right to listen or ignore the opinion of the judge, however, there are many added benefits to making the most out of your time at a settlement conference.
Some advantages of a settlement conference include, but are not limited to, saving money, saving time, avoiding trial and the stress/costs that are attached to it and having the flexibility of choosing your own settlement rather than having someone else choose it for you. You are free to discuss your case in a wholesome manner to which the judge will use his experience and knowledge to provide an opinion and point out any procedural issues brought up. Keep in mind that a good settlement is when both the parties have reached a fair compromise. To learn more about offers to settle, look at rule 18 of the Family Law Rules.
In terms of supporting documents, make sure to also bring with you a copy of the Trial Management Conference Form 17E. It is imperative that this is filed and served to before the conference at least 7 days prior if you are the Applicant and 4 days prior if your are the Respondent.
After the trial management conference, the next and final stage is the trial so it is crucial that all details are discussed before the trial occurs.