10. Status, Pretrial and Final Hearings

As the case is progressing towards a final hearing, the Court will schedule a settlement conference or pretrial hearing. The purpose of a settlement conference or pretrial hearing is to make sure that the case is ready for trial and that all reasonable efforts have been exhausted to settle the issues that are otherwise to be determined by the Court. A settlement conference is more informal than a pretrial hearing. At a pretrial hearing or Settlement Conference, your presence may be required in the event that the Court or attorneys need your input, particularly on the issue of settlement. Settlement conference and pretrial hearings are usually conducted in the Judge’s chambers. After all discovery has been completed, and all efforts to settle the case have been exhausted, a final hearing will be set. The length of that final hearing will depend upon the issues. Some final hearings last only two to three hours. Others last two or more days. Typically a fully contested divorce case will take one to three days of trial time to complete on the merits. When the issue of custody is also contested, that generally will enlarge the necessary time by one or more days. After the Court has heard all of the evidence, the Court will sometimes request briefs or proposed Orders. Sometimes Judges announce their decision in the courtroom. Other times they take the matter under advisement and later advise the lawyers, either in writing or by joint telephone call, of the Court’s decision. If the Court takes the matter under consideration, it is typical that the Court will take anywhere from a week to four weeks or longer to make its decision. Once the decision has been rendered, one or both of the lawyers will be requested to draft an Order for the Judges’ signature. That Order will set forth the Court’s findings and rulings on the issues.