If you’re reading this, a judge has issued a pretrial order requiring a pretrial conference in Florida divorce case.
A notice to attend a pretrial conference is a sign that the court considers the case as moving towards a conclusion by trial.
A pretrial conference in Florida divorce case is exactly that: an opportunity before the actual trial for both parties and the court to spell out the rules of the upcoming trial.
As your divorce attorney may have told you, a jury trial can take a long time. And a long trial requires a lot of prep work. This prep work can require a massive amount of documents and testimony in order to prove all of the issues, assets, financial positions, and parenting ability of parties in a divorce.
Often though, even in the bitterest disputes there are a lot of things that the parties can agree on. A pretrial conference is an opportunity to figure out if it’s possible to agree on or simplify some of the issues in the case.
For example, in a case where the parties both make relatively similar incomes, is the party who makes a little bit less money willing to stipulate and agree to the other party that they’re not going to request alimony? Removing an issue like alimony from an otherwise contested case can save hours of time from the prosecutor office.
A pretrial conference is also an opportunity to see if there are admissions of fact that the parties can agree upon.
The case may have substantial assets or debts that need to be classified, determined if marital or not, and then ultimately divided.
Each one of those assets, if there is no stipulation, may require the admission of bank statements or records into evidence so the judge can see the exact value of the asset and figure out what to do with it.
It can be much simpler to spend a few minutes in a pretrial conference determining which assets everyone can agree is marital or non-marital, and what the valuation date might be for a particular asset.
For everything that the parties can agree upon, that’s one less tree that needs to be killed to produce paper to introduce to the judge at a trial. That means lower costs and a happier judge.
We can also use the pretrial conference in Florida divorce case to determine how many witnesses each party intends to call. This way, the judge can make sure that the parties are not calling duplicate witnesses. The judge can also make sure that there’s enough time set for trial to hear everybody’s witnesses so we don’t have to continue it and come back another day.
Finally, a pretrial conference is an opportunity to agree to waive certain evidentiary hurdles that just may not be necessary in a family law case. For example, almost everybody has to bring in some bank statements for a contested divorce case. The last thing the parties want to do is pay for the records custodian from each of those banks to come in and testify that the records are genuine. That’s what’s required in our rules of evidence, but frankly, it’s a waste of time in the vast majority of contested divorce cases. Pretrial is an opportunity for both lawyers to agree to not jump that unnecessary hurdle.
Finally, a pretrial process in Florida divorce case is an opportunity for the judge to ask one last time if there is the possibility of settlement. If the judge sniffs the possibility of settlement through a settlement conference or thinks it’s been way too long since the parties last tried to mediate their issues, he/she may send them into mediation for one last attempt to work everything out.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. What do I need to bring to my pretrial conference?
Yourself! The court will have certain requirements for your defense attorney, such as completing a pretrial memorandum or a pretrial stipulation with the other defense counsel. This is usually done a couple of days before the actual pretrial. But as for you, all you need to bring is yourself.
2. Can I attend over the phone?
Attending a pretrial over the phone requires written permission from the judge. If you’re local, the judge is probably going to want you to attend in person. If you’re out of town or attending the pretrial otherwise presents a hardship, contact your lawyer and let him know so he can seek permission from the judge.
3. So is this the trial where there is dispute resolution?
No, this is a meeting to spell out the rules for your actual trial. This hearing will only be a couple of minutes, but your actual trial may be days or longer. To read more about your actual trial go here: