Whether you’re going through a divorce or a child custody matter, the court has a variety of services that might assist you with your case.  It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the different services available and how they might be helpful to your situation.

For instance, the court has a few different options to assist in negotiating a settlement between the parties.  These services are only available to the parties after a case has been filed with the court, either by a petition for dissolution or petition to establish/modify legal decision making or parenting time.

One option is an ADR/Settlement Conference.  The key benefit of a settlement conference is that it is a free service provided by the court.  A settlement conference can be set either by motion of one of the parties or by referral from the court.  At the settlement conference, you (and your attorney if you have one) will meet with the third party settlement conference provider appointed by the court, either at the provider’s office or at the courthouse, along with the opposing party and his/her attorney.  Approximately 50% of settlement conferences result in a full settlement and 70% result in at least a partial settlement.  If either party fails to appear for the settlement conference, sanctions can be levied, including attorney’s fees, default or dismissal of the petition.

For parties dealing with legal decision-making and parenting time issues, another option is Mediation.  Often times, a divorce decree will include a provision which requires the parties to participate in mediation to resolve disputes prior to filing with the court.  Otherwise, Mediation can be scheduled by court referral either party or their attorney filing a petition for mediation.  Mediation is available to parties at no charge for pre-decree matters and is $100 per party for post-decree matters.

A third option to assist in the settlement process is a Parenting Conference.  Parenting Conferences are typically best-suited for cases in which parental fitness is at issue.  A parenting conference provider is appointed by the court to meet with the parties to review records, conduct interviews of the parties and prepare a report for the court.  In some instances, the court will order that the parenting conference provider also interview the child(ren).  A key factor to consider regarding a Parenting Conference is that the report is usually given a substantial amount of weight by the court in making its final determination.  Attorneys are not permitted to attend and the cost of a Parenting Conference is $300 per party.

If you would like more information about the services offered by the court or have any other family law questions, you can contact one of our attorneys at 623-536-5500.  Thank you.