Once you have filed for divorce, the Court sends out a “Notice to Appear” for a Status Conference. The Status Conference date is generally scheduled for 3-5 months after the Petition for Dissolution is filed.
Both parties or their attorneys (if they have them) are required to appear for the Status Conference. The Judge checks in with the parties to see what is happening in their divorce. If you are represented by attorneys, they will give a brief report to the Judge and then may ask for certain deadlines to be set regarding discovery or other procedural issues. Your attorneys will bill you for the time they spend in Court for this conference as well as for any waiting time they may have. While a Status Conference is brief, generally 5-10 minutes, your attorney may have to wait his or her turn to be called.
If you do not have attorneys, you are sent out to meet with a representative from the Family Law Facilitators office. They will try to figure out what you need to do next to move your divorce along to final judgment. The Facilitator can’t give legal advice and can only guide you in the proper direction. The Court will then give you another date to come back and check in again. Eventually, if you are not making progress the Court may set your case for trial. You should plan on spending 3-4 hours at Court.
Will the Judge Make Any Decisions About My Case?
Whether you have an attorney or not, the Judge does not make any substantive decisions regarding your case at this conference. The Judge just wants to know: are you in mediation, will you need a trial, do you have an attorney, and if so, are the attorneys moving the case forward. The Judge will not make decisions about child support, spousal support or custody and visitation at this conference.
What Happens If I Don't Show Up?
It is important that you attend the conference if you do not have an attorney. If you and your spouse do not show up, the Court will usually send you a second Notice To Appear. If you miss the second Status Conference the Judge can dismiss your case, assuming that you no longer wish to get divorced. This means you may have to start from scratch and pay filing fees again and start over with your 6 month waiting period.
If I'm in Mediation, Do I Have to Go?
In mediation, we file an agreement telling the Court that you are in mediation. The Court then postpones the Status Conference for a period of one year. This gives you an entire year from the date you file your Petition to get everything done and filed with the Court. If you finish within that one year period you should never have to go to Court!