The laws that define divorce proceeding are the province of the various states rather than federal law and therefore differ significantly from state to state. Nevertheless, there are certain elements that are common to all divorce proceedings regardless of state of jurisdiction, and the status conference is a prime example.
Beginning Divorce Proceeding
Divorce proceedings are initiated by the filing of a legal pleading called a petition or complaint: a formal, written document that states the reasons for dissolution of a marriage (divorce) and that seeks related relief such as custody of children, spousal support and distribution of property of the marriage.
Requesting a Status Conference
After the other spouse has responded by filing a formal pleading called an answer, either party may request a status conference by filing a formal pleading known in most jurisdictions as a Notice to Set Status Conference or Request for Status Conference.
Scheduling the Status Conference
In response to this request, the trial court will assign a date for the status conference. If both parties are represented by counsel, the court will usually consult both attorneys to determine a date and time.
Purpose of a Status Conference
The primary purpose of the initial status conference is to determine the overall schedule under which the divorce proceeding will progress. Deadlines will be assigned for such matters as production of documents, conduct of depositions and the filing of supplemental pleadings. The court also will set hearing dates. The court may also set a tentative trial date during the status conference.
Location of Status Conference
In many jurisdictions, the status conference is conducted as an informal meeting in the chambers of the trial judge and is not recorded or transcribed by the court reporter. It may even be conducted by a telephone conference call. However, some jurisdictions conduct the status conference as a formal proceeding in open court and on record.
Status Conference Vs. Settlement Conference
Although the status conference is held primarily to determine a tentative schedule for conduct of the overall divorce proceeding, it is not unusual for the attorneys or the parties to discuss prospects for settlement of the action during that conference. However, most jurisdictions provide for a second, separate conference that is specifically dedicated to settlement discussion.