What Happens at a Mandatory Divorce Settlement Conference in California?

By Brenna Davis

In California, judges can order mandatory divorce settlement conferences. These conferences are held between the parties and a court-appointed mediator or judge, and all parties and their attorneys must attend. The settlement conference gives the parties a final opportunity to settle before going to trial and is typically scheduled 30 days before trial. Judges are especially likely to order these conferences when child custody is in dispute because they allow parents to come to an agreement they can both tolerate.


Prior to the conference, each party is required to file a brief outlining the facts of the case, the arguments they intend to make, an itemized list of relevant financial information and the requested settlement agreement. If you are represented by an attorney, your attorney will file this brief for you. Your attorneys may meet with one another either before the conference or at the beginning of the conference to discuss possible settlements.

Mediated Settlement Conferences

If your settlement conference is through a mediator, you will follow the mediator's procedures for the settlement conference. The mediator may contact you before the conference or may explain procedures at the beginning of the conference. Typically, both parties meet and present their sides at the beginning of the conference. The mediator may then separate the parties. Mediators may point out to each party the weaknesses of their arguments, potential liabilities and possible outcomes. Parties may then begin to negotiate potential settlements and are required to remain at the conference until either a settlement is reached or until the mediator feels that no settlement is possible. In the latter case, the conference is likely to last all day.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Judicial Settlement Conferences

Your conference may be in front of a judge or judicial officer. In this case, each party will present his or her side and the judge may ask questions based on the law. The parties may remain in the same room the entire time or the judge may separate the parties. Judicial settlement conferences are frequently more law-oriented. The judge will be less interested in the facts of the case than she is in what the law says about the facts. These conferences are much more similar to a trial than conferences with a mediator. However, you will not be able to call witnesses.


If you reach a settlement during the conference, the settlement agreement will be drafted either by the attorneys or by the mediator. After that, a judge will review the settlement agreement and sign an order. The settlement then becomes binding. Occasionally, parties are only able to settle some matters. For example, they may come to an agreement about child custody but not about division of property. In these cases, the partial settlement is binding but a judge will consider the other issues at trial.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
What to Expect at ERC for an Arizona Divorce


Related articles

What if My Husband Refuses to Mediate the Divorce in Texas?

Divorcing spouses in Texas are encouraged to use mediation as a means of settling their disputes. However, state law does not require spouses to mediate unless a judge orders them to do so. In an effort to facilitate settlement of contested divorces, may counties have established local rules that require mediation before the final hearing. The consequences, if any, for refusing to mediate depend on the type of divorce and local rules of the county where the case has been filed.

What Happens During a Child Custody Settlement Conference?

During a contested child custody case, most states require the parents to attend a settlement conference before the court will schedule the case for a trial. State courts advocate settlement conferences to reduce the financial and emotional drain on parents involved in a custody dispute. States rely on successful settlement conferences to lessen the toll on the courts and taxpayers created by trials.

What Happens at a Pretrial Hearing for Divorce?

Pretrial hearings are much less intimidating than they sound. First, they’re not usually hearings. They're meetings and some states refer to them as such, calling them pre-trial conferences instead. They provide you and your spouse with a chance to settle your case and afford you an invaluable glimpse into how the judge will rule if you go to trial.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Can the Defendant in a Divorce Reschedule the Trial Date in Michigan?

In Michigan, divorce trials often involve the participation of more than just the spouses. At times, the court must ...

Order of Referral to Magistrate in the Dissolution of a Marriage

Getting a marriage dissolved is not something that can be accomplished overnight. Even if you and your spouse are in ...

How Long Does the Divorce Process Take After the Deposition in Virginia?

Your depositions -- formal statements, either oral or written, that carry the same importance as testimony in court -- ...

What Happens in a Divorce Mediation in Miami, Florida?

Peace is to war what mediation is to litigation. When you or your spouse files for divorce in Miami, you have the ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED