Divorce courts in most states do not like surprises. Although most cases settle without court intervention, sometimes spouses are so far apart that a trial is inevitable. If yours is one of these, the judge assigned to your case usually wants to know sooner rather than later. When you meet with him for a case management conference, it gives him a good indication of how likely it is that you'll resolve your differences on your own. These conferences also set deadlines and terms to keep your case moving along toward a resolution.
Make a complete list of all assets you and your spouse own. It should include real estate, vehicles, retirement benefits and anything else of value, such as coin collections or other collectibles. It’s usually not necessary to list personal property, such as your clothing or computer. However, if you own expensive jewelry or costly electronics, make a separate list of these things so you can ask the judge about them at the conference.
Access a form for a case management order from your state’s website or by visiting the court and requesting a copy. Some states will enclose one when the court sends you a notice scheduling your conference. Fill in all the easy information, such as your divorce case number, your name and your spouse’s name.
Complete the section of the case management order that relates to your children, if you have any. Most states will want to know if you and your spouse have agreed on a parenting plan. If you haven’t, you must usually note this. The court might order mediation to help you along.
Decide what types of discovery you want to engage in with your spouse. Generally, you can exchange interrogatories -- written questions requiring written answers -- or requests for production of documents, such as each other’s bank records, tax returns and income information. You also usually have the right to conduct depositions and question your spouse verbally under oath. If you think any of these things are necessary in your case, complete the section regarding discovery on the management order so the judge can order a date for their completion.
Refer to your list of assets. Determine which of them, if any, will require a professional to establish their value. List all of them on your management order, noting which you think need appraisals. If you’re unsure, leave the appraisal information blank and ask the judge about it when you attend the conference.
Tips & Warnings
- It’s very difficult to do anything wrong or make a mistake at a management conference, especially if you’re represented by an attorney. Management conferences are fact-finding missions, and the judge generally will not make any decisions of significant importance. He'll usually sign a management order with your requests and those of your spouse, obligating you to exchange discovery, complete appraisals or attend mediation. Your best preparation is to have a comprehensive knowledge of the facts of your case and what you’re looking for out of your divorce. If you have an attorney, he should already know these answers, so you won’t have to do much at all. If you’re not representing yourself, some states won’t even require you to attend the conference. Your lawyer can take care of it on his own.
References & Resources
- The Divorce Center: Case Management Conference in a Divorce Case
- New Jersey Law Network; New Jersey Law in Review; Theodore Sliwinski
- Heimerl & Lammers: Minnesota Initial Case Management Conferences
- DivorceLawfirms.com: Divorce – Going to Trial vs. Settling Out of Court
- Romanowski Law Offices: Case Management Order (PDF)
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