What Is a Pretrial Conference in a Child Custody Case?

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Purpose of the Conference

A pretrial conference -- sometimes called a status conference -- gives the judge an understanding of the issues in your custody case. Depending on your state’s procedures, the judge may try to guide you to a settlement. If that’s not possible, he’ll begin preparing for trial by setting deadlines by which you and your ex must do certain things, such as produce expert reports for a custody evaluation. The judge might even order a custody evaluation on his own or order you and your ex to attend mediation. He’ll typically issue an order at the end of the conference, making these deadlines part of the court record. The order might include any terms that you and your ex agree on and that won’t require deciding at trial. The judge usually won’t make any decisions regarding custody or visitation at this meeting -- that’s reserved for the trial at a later date.

What Happens Next

You may have more than one pretrial conference in your case, particularly if the issues are complex. At the end of the first conference, the judge will either schedule another one, if he feels it will be productive, or set a trial date.


About the Author

Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.

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