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Family Law Basics: the initial status conference
Family Law Basics: the inital status conference

Once a petition for divorce or parental responsibilities has been filed, the Court will set the first appearance in the case, called the Initial Status Conference.  The purpose of the status conference is to ensure that both parties understand the procedures necessary for the case, and to advise the Court about the issues the parties are dealing with.  It is relatively informal, and it’s a good way for unrepresented parties to have their procedural questions answered.

Each county has a slightly different procedure for the Initial Status Conference.  In most cases, the Conference is held by the Family Court Facilitator.  The Family Court Facilitator is an attorney employed by the Court to help parties with case management.  They cannot enter any orders about disputes between the parties, but they can enter parties’ initial agreements, and can provide useful information on how the Court’s proceedings work.

In other circumstances, the Initial Status Conference is held by the magistrate in court, but the proceeding is still designed to inform the parties about their responsibilities as their case moves forward.

When you appear for your Initial Status Conference, you’ll need to be prepared to discuss the case status.  At this stage, you should be able to tell the Family Court Facilitator or the magistrate whether you have completed your Sworn Financial Statement and financial disclosures, and whether you have scheduled or completed your mandatory parenting class.

The Initial Status Conference is also where you will likely be ordered to participate in mediation, and where you can ask to set a temporary orders hearing if necessary.

You can’t ask the Court or the Family Court Facilitator for legal advice, but the Initial Status Conference does give you the opportunity to ask procedural questions so that you can understand the course of your case.

For most parties with representation, the Initial Status Conference may not provide any new information, but it still helps you to understand how the proceedings will move forward, and you can get more comfortable in the courtroom environment.

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