Anatomy of a Divorce Series Part 5: The Initial Case Management Conference
Once you or your spouse has filed a formal Complaint for Divorce, that gets the ball rolling on litigation. That’s why we often recommend that the parties not file a Complaint right away unless there is a specific reason to do so. It sets the court machine in motion and usually just makes the parties spend more money on legal fees since their attorneys have to start doing things at the court’s direction. (We have talked about this in prior blogs of the Anatomy of a Divorce Series). If you find yourself in litigation though, you will get to this point eventually. Here is an explanation what the initial Case Management Conference is about.
Once the pleadings have been completed, the Court needs to ensure that the partis are moving the case along and that it is not just lingering. The Court is run like a business. Part of that “business” is getting cases off of the docket. That means they have to move along and reach a conclusion, which the Court prefers happen as soon as possible. Hence, the check-in of a Case Management Conference.
The Case Management Conference is also intended to assist the parties and their attorneys in addressing any discovery issues or other things that may need to be addressed to help move things along. (We’ll address what discovery means more thoroughly in our next blog).
The Case Management Conference is something your attorneys will mostly handle, with little to no involvement from the clients. The attorneys should already know by this time what the major issues are in the case and, therefore, what discovery is important. This is essential since the purpose of the Case Management Conference is to establish what discovery needs to be exchanged and to provide a timeline for it. For instance, do the parties need experts? If there is a business or an issue that requires an accountant, that should be addressed here. If it is anticipated that there may be a custody dispute, a custody expert may be determined. If there are any valuation issues as to property (e.g. a pension, a house, or antique collection, or a business), that will be addressed here. The attorneys will need to discuss whether any of these experts are necessary, and if so, who will be the expert to be used, whether it’s going to be a joint expert and who is going to pay for it.
It is possible that an expert on any of these various issues may not arise until later, but in many cases, the attorneys should have already identified what experts may be needed. It’s very important that this be done early in the case. At the heart of litigation is prepping for trial, although most attorneys (the good ones anyway) are always looking to resolve the case without a trial. However, we still have to mindful that this is litigation so that if and when the case gets to trial, we are prepared. Many attorneys will just assume that the case is going to settle, and then be terribly surprised (and unprepared) towards the end of the case if they haven’t done certain things throughout the case to be ready for trial. (Definitely not a good strategy).
Discovery and experts aren’t just necessary for trial though. They aid the parties in gathering information that they need to make informed and educated decisions about how to settle their case, such as the value of assets and other financial information. It also gives the attorneys information so they can better advise you.
The initial Case Management Conference is an early attempt to get the proverbial ducks in a row to streamline the case. It’s important that your attorney has done a careful analysis of the facts of your case by this time to determine the issues and ascertain from his or her professional judgment what discovery mechanisms you need to utilize moving forward.
If you are concerned about how your case is being handled and want to consult with an attorney, or if you decided to handle your divorce yourself and have realized you are in over your head, schedule a Client Vision Meeting by calling us at 732-529-6937. Or you can schedule it right