What is a Divorce Settlement Conference?

Getting a divorce is often complicated, but most divorces settle without getting to trial. To settle means both spouses agree upon a negotiated divorce settlement and enter the settlement with the court for approval. As a part of this process, the divorcing couple could also be required to participate during a settlement conference divorce.

In Washington state, depending on the jurisdiction, these conferences could also be voluntary or required by the domestic relations court. Mandatory settlement conferences may happen during a courtroom with a supervisor (often a judge or retired judge, a personal mediator, commissioner, or attorney). Voluntary divorce settlement conferences are often unsupervised and only involve the spouses and their attorneys.

Settlement conferences typically involve more structured negotiation and dispute resolution techniques. A divorce settlement conference may last a couple of hours, or it could take several days, counting on the problems to be negotiated. The goal is that the same in either instance – to progress the divorce negotiations and reach a final settlement agreement so that the case won’t require an attempt.

A settlement conference divorce is different from mediation. At mediation, a neutral third-party mediator will shuffle between you and your spouse in an attempt to facilitate settlement. A settlement conference divorce usually happens late during a case and sometimes happens because a judge orders one. A mediator could also be present at your settlement conference, but in most cases, a judge, not a mediator, will supervise and facilitate the meeting.

Every issue in your divorce has relevance at a settlement conference divorce. You control what issues are decided at a settlement conference divorce, and the way they’re decided. These issues may include child custody and visitation, support payment, dividing marital property, and alimony. You’ll want to be very specific in any agreement so that there’s no room for argument down the road.

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At a settlement conference divorce you’ll decide your case on your terms. After all, you know your case and your family the best, so couples are often happiest with their divorce agreements and final judgments when they’ve been ready to settle things themselves.

If both parties reach an agreement during the divorce settlement conference, the respective lawyers will draw up an agreement for both spouses to sign. Once all the paperwork is handled, the ultimate steps to finalize the divorce can proceed. In many states, you’ll not even need to set foot in a courtroom and a judge will finalize and sign all paperwork without the necessity for a hearing.

In most cases, reaching a settlement agreement is preferable to a trial. Trials are often long, unpredictable and even if you paid a mediator to assist at your conference, you’ve spent tons less money than you’d at trial. Trials are exponentially costlier than paying a mediator’s fees for a day-long mediation.

If you don’t find yourself with a settlement as a result of the settlement conference divorce, nothing discussed at the conference is often utilized in an attempt.