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Divorce & Family Law This forum is for discussing any of the legal issues involved in your divorce.

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Old 02-22-2009, 07:04 PM
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Default Case Conference; Self-Rep; What to Expect?

In about 36 hours, we have our first ever Case Conference without a lawyer. We've been through this before, however our lawyer has always handled everything, and we were kept out of the loop for the most part.

Now, we do not know what to expect, and are quite anxious about this conference.

For those who have self-represented and gone through a case conference, could you please share some words of wisdom, or anything that will give us an idea of what to expect going through this without a lawyer?

Thank you kindly in advance.
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Old 02-22-2009, 09:49 PM
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Dress well, no jeans, ball caps or things of the like; When you first enter the court room, the judge will already be seated at the bench, thus you usually enter the courtroom when your case is called and be seated in the first pew behind the area where the lawyers are seated.
When the judge speaks to you, stand and speak clearly, never speak while sitting as it's a sign of disrespect. Avoid pointing fingers of blame, and remember that the judge (hopefully) will give you a chance to speak if more clarity on something is required.
Always be polite, use pleases and thank yous, even when you really want to use many alternate words that only contain 4 letters.
Basically it's a repeat of what your mother always told you as a child when speaking to your elders, except in this case you're an adult speaking to a matter that is life-altering important.

It almost feels like being sent to the principals office in school...
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Old 02-22-2009, 10:27 PM
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Yeah, all common-sense stuff.

At our last case conference - with a lawyer - the judge asked both lawyers (ours and hers) to meet with him in his chambers to discuss the case prior to letting us into the courtroom. The lawyers, with the judge's advice, settled the majority of the issues amongst themselves in the judge's chambers. When we finally enterred the courtroom, there were only 3 issues on the table, that the judge made his ruling on based on the information he had already received from the lawyers during their discussion in his chamber.

So, we never - in a sense - went through the "normal" case conference procedure.
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Old 02-23-2009, 09:42 AM
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We had two case conferences. Both were in closed court. No spectators(or extra family) unless both sides consented.

We came into the court and sat at the front tables between the lecturn. THe judge came in, we stood up to show respect, and then we were asked to sit. The only time you stand is when you speak to the judge.

I had a very sympathetic judge the first time(yrs ago) and a terrible harsh judge(who later ruled in my favour in motions court) the second time.

Recently, at my conference, the judge targeted me(self represented, ex was represented) and in the first two minutes, yelled at me to be reasonable(I want OCL to assess the situation, he says no) and said this conference is over now and I have wasted everyones time if I don't come to my senses and agree with him. He basically lost his mind on me. I had received much advice from a lawyer to expect this from that judge so I stood my ground even though my knees were shaking.

The judge cannot force ANY rulings on you in a case conference, it is just to try to see WHAT issues the parties can put behind them. For every issue(custody, access, child support, spousal, costs, special and extraordinary expenses etc.) have a well thought out and written position and be prepared to speak up. If your ex and you are too far apart, he/she will give his opinion. I would think that most suggestions by the judge are what other judges would rule if you brought a motion on the issue. That is, you would hope so. But in our first case conference, the judge spoke her recommendations, and my ex's counsel said with all due respectm, we decline to allow you to make the ruling in that respect.

When we were represented in our first case conference, we went out of judges chambers to negotiate(debts of business etc. ) and my ex frequently lost his temper and was pushing the table, storming in and out of the room, banging his fist, calling me names like thief, idiot. It was not pleasant. But we had a short list of what we agreed on. I had a feeling the judge heard my ex carrying on in the next room because she gave her opinions awarding everything I asked for(not that the ex would allow an order made for any of those issues).

It is a much more informal proceeding than motions court, and in my city, at motions court, I find the other lawyers and people waiting for their name on the list to come up sitting in the stands to be very intimidating as I have social anxiety. This is slightly better!

Good luck, it is a draining process.

The other parties brief
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Old 02-23-2009, 01:58 PM
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Thanks for the reply, Independantgal. That sounds like some experience you had. Don't you just love how your life is held in the hands of judges who, dependant on their mood, make their rulings?

Our last case conference was in closed court as well. The only "spectator" allowed was me, as my fianc├ę's significant other. Let me tell you, my stepson's mom was not pleased one bit when her entire family (parents, stepparents, grandparents, cousins, siblings) was asked to wait outside. And the dirty looks I received from them, being able to be in the courtroom - as per the judge - I'd rather not describe.

I can completely understand the closed court preference. I just hope that I'm able to be inside this time around as well.

I like knowing that the judge cannot force any rulings, and if the parties don't agree, the issue can go to trial. We weren't aware of this last time, and agreed to things we didn't really want to agree on. I guess the lawyers just wanted to get it done and over with. But here we are going for what's fair... again... and hopefully this time we won't be forced into an unfair situation.

Thank you for sharing your experience. I hope that we get a sympathetic judge, and not a harsh one like the one you had. No offense! ;-)
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Old 02-23-2009, 07:03 PM
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Best of luck tomorrow SM!
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Old 02-23-2009, 07:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimberley View Post
Best of luck tomorrow SM!
Thanks Kimberly! We will definitely need it! At least to calm our nerves! ;-)
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Old 02-23-2009, 07:42 PM
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As stated above, the purpose of the case conference is to identify the issues and start the process of moving to settlement. The reason there is no one else allowed in is to stimulate an environment where the court can get the lay of the land and so the parties can communicate (not yell, or be a clown) their desires in a without prejudice setting.

When both parties are represented, it is normal procedure to have the lawyers meet with the judge alone first, so the judge can get the picture without the parties present. Then you go into together after that to try and work out a deal.

The only orders that might get made at a case conference are either procedural and will not materially affect the outcome of the case, or ones that are made "on consent" of the parties, which are influenced by the judges recommendations. Despite the pressure that might be exerted by the judge, neither party is ordered to do something significant, unless on consent.

#1StepMom, your case conference sounds pretty standard, unless a significant order was made without consent of the parties.
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Old 02-24-2009, 06:31 PM
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Hoping things went well for you SM.
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Old 02-24-2009, 07:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimberley View Post
Hoping things went well for you SM.
Unfortunately, things didn't go as well as we hoped. :-(

We did get an interim order for a slight reduction in child support, but my fiance had income imputed to him at an amount much higher than the EI he currently receives. The judge said that the amount of CS based on his EI would be too low. In that case, I wonder why they even have guideline tables if judges won't abide by them and will only consider amounts of CS above a certain "minimum" - the minimum being, as per the judge, $400 per month per child!

But everything else we went forward with got scrapped, for the sole reason that we didn't receive it in our last Court Order, so why should we get it now? Great thinking, huh?

I'm just very disappointed with the "reasoning" behind everything today. It's like the rules of Family Law went out the window the second we walked into the court room. :-(

We're feeling quite defeated right now.
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