What Is a Pre-Trial in a Child Custody Case?

By Mike Broemmel
Children at play.
winter children image by Marzanna Syncerz from Fotolia.com

Jurisdictions across the United States adhere to similar procedures in family court proceedings, including child custody cases, according to "Civil Procedure Examples and Explanations" by Joseph W. Glannon. These codes of civil procedure contained in each state's laws govern the child custody judicial process. Included within these statutes are the provisions for a pretrial conference conducted in a child custody case.


The functions of a pretrial conference in a child custody case include delineating the specific issues to be raised during the trial itself. Additionally, a pretrial involves the development of witness and exhibit lists for the trial as well as developing a specific time frame for the final phase of the case. Finally, a pretrial provides the parties to a child custody dispute an opportunity to attempt a settlement of the case to avoid further judicial proceedings.

Time Frame

The time frame of when a pretrial conference occurs varies from one case to another. Typically, a pretrial conference is held between 30 to 60 days of the trial. The timing of a pretrial conference usually is part of the initial scheduling order developed by the court when the child custody case commenced.

Pretrial Questionnaire

The laws in most jurisdictions require each party to a child custody case to prepare a pretrial questionnaire. Through the questionnaire, each party to the case provides basic information about the evidence and issues she intends to present at the trial. A list of witnesses she expects to call is also included in the questionnaire.


A common misconception associated with a pretrial in a child custody case is that this step in the process represents a mere formality. In fact, important business occurs at a pretrial conference, including establishing a specific framework for the trial as well as a possibly settling the case.

Expert Assistance

Child custody cases represent legally complex and emotionally challenging proceedings, including the pretrial segment of the process. Consider engaging the services of an experienced attorney to represent you in this type of proceeding. Local and state bar associations maintain directories of attorneys in different practice areas, including family law. Contact information for these organizations is available through the American Bar Association at:

American Bar Association 321 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL 60654-7598 312-988-5000 abanet.org

About the Author

Mike Broemmel began writing in 1982. He is an author/lecturer with two novels on the market internationally, "The Shadow Cast" and "The Miller Moth." Broemmel served on the staff of the White House Office of Media Relations. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and political science from Benedictine College and a Juris Doctorate from Washburn University. He also attended Brunel University, London.