Answer: A pre-trial conference is a settlement meeting that the lawyers have with the judge. The first pre-trial usually occurs before the case is set for trial, and shortly after the discovery is completed, or is close to completion. Additional pre-trial meetings with the judge often take place just before or during the actual trial.
The lawyers get to present their clients’ version of the facts and settlement positions to the judge. They accomplish this quickly and efficiently because they can speak freely and do not have to deal with the technical or evidentiary distractions that are present during a trial.
Neither lawyer can mislead the judge because the other lawyer insures that the judge hears only an accurate portrayal of the facts and of all other pertinent factors.
The judge learns the case in a nutshell and indicates how he or she would likely rule if the identical facts were established at trial. This indication serves as the court’s recommendation and guide as to how the court believes the parties should settle their issues.
The parties are not required to accept the court’s recommendation and are free to proceed to trial.
THE BAD PART ABOUT PRE-TRIALS.
When the pre-trial ends, the lawyers report to their clients about what transpired at the pre-trial. The lawyers must often report news that displeases the client. While this is never easy for the lawyer because he or she shares the client’s disappointment, the lawyer is also disappointed that the client could not be present to witness the lawyer at work – pleading the client’s case.
Imagine being a party to a divorce and you firmly believe that you have a reasonable settlement stance. You have waited over a year to present your position to a judge and the day finally arrives. You wait in the corridor of the courthouse while your lawyer goes into the judge’s chambers to tell the judge about you and the validity of your needs and concerns. You wait 30-40 minutes and then the lawyer comes out of the meeting and tells you something that you disagree with and do not accept.
You were not present to see your lawyer in action and you did not get to see the judge’s face or hear the reasoning behind the judge’s recommendation. All you know is that you feel short-changed and that you did not get your day in court.
We sincerely believe that pre-trial conferences are of tremendous help to anyone going through divorce, but we feel the system is doing a disservice to the divorcing public by not allowing it to witness what occurs during these meetings.
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Richard and Kari are staunch advocates of the non-court approach to divorce, and are also active and seasoned litigators with over 60 years of combined trial experience in the Illinois divorce courts of Cook, DuPage, and Will counties.