To better streamline the civil and family law cases that come through the courts, the California legal system has a process of case management that seeks to facilitate case progress, resolve issues, and set deadlines. If you are involved in a family law case in Santa Barbara County, it is important to know how to prepare for a case management conference and what will be involved in that meeting.
What Is a Case Management Conference?
After a case is filed with the Santa Barbara County court, a case management conference will be scheduled to occur between 120 days and 180 days following the case filing. The purpose of this meeting is to inform the judge about the procedural status of the case. The judge will determine if a settlement has already been made and, if one hasn’t, offer counsel if a settlement is still desired. The judge will ask for updates on the completion of necessary documents and determine if future hearings are necessary.
Both parties and their lawyers are required to attend the conference on the scheduled date. The conference will allow you and your lawyer to ask questions, express issues, or request additional time.
Before the Case Management Conference
The conference will be on the calendar to take place four to six months after the case filing, allowing you and your attorney time to complete any necessary court requisites. Before the conference, each party will be required to both meet and confer with one another and complete and serve a case management statement.
Meet and Confer
California Rules of Court require each party to meet with the other side prior to the case management conference to discuss how to handle the case. This meeting, known legally as a meet and confer, can occur in person but typically takes place over the phone. During this meeting, you should seek to resolve the following topics:
- Schedule. Find out when each party will be ready for trial, what dates work for all parties involved (including witnesses), and how long you believe that the trial will last.
- Settlement. You can avoid trial by settling out of court. Each side should discuss what they are willing to settle for and whether they are willing to consider alternative dispute resolutions. Settlement can be done amongst each other, with lawyers, or with the judge in a settlement conference.
- Issues. You should use this meeting to discuss any known issues with the discovery phase of the case, whether it is the timetable, objections, or anticipated issues.
You and the other party must conclude your meeting at least 30 days before the conference. You will then be given at least two weeks to complete the case management statement.
Case Management Statement
Prior to the conference, each party will be responsible for completing a case management statement. Your statement must be completed, signed, and delivered to the other party at least 15 days before your scheduled case management conference. The statement should include what, if any, dates you will not be available for trial and state both the purpose and the progress of the case.
To deliver it, you must give it to another adult who is not involved in the case. They will then mail or deliver the statement to the other party, along with an unsigned, but dated and completed, copy of the Proof of Service. You should retain a copy of the case management statement for your records.
Q: What Happens at a Case Management Conference in California?
A: At a case management conference in California, where both sides of the case and their lawyers are required to attend, the judge will inquire whether the parties have attempted to settle the case and if everyone has filed their papers on time. At this point, settlement is still an option, and if you wish to settle, the judge will help you choose a good process for working the settlement out. Otherwise, the judge can set a trial date.
Q: Do I Need to Serve the Case Management Statement in California?
A: California courts require each party to serve the case management statement to all other parties at least 15 days before the scheduled date for the case management conference. To serve the statement, you must ask another adult to mail the statement and sign a proof of service. The adult must be:
- At least 18 years old
- Not a part of the case
Parties can individually draft and sign the statement, or they can all sign a joint statement.
Q: What Happens If You Miss a Case Management Conference in California?
A: In California, if the case management conference is on the calendar but the plaintiff misses it, the court can schedule a hearing for the plaintiff to explain why they did not attend. The court will generally impose a sanction or fine on the plaintiff for their failure to appear. If you also miss the scheduled hearing, you increase the risk of:
- Additional imposed sanctions
- Rulings being made in the case with which you disagree
- A dismissal of the case altogether
Q: What Happens If You Don’t File a Case Management Statement?
A: If you don’t file a case management statement, you inconvenience the court and must complete an Order to Show Cause explaining why you missed the deadline. The purpose of the statement is to update your progress on the case and outline dates on which you will be unavailable for further hearings or trial. Without the statement, the court may schedule the trial date at a time when you are unavailable. If you fear that you may miss deadlines, hiring an attorney can help you.
Work With a Qualified Family Law Attorney
Family law cases require completing essential documentation and paperwork, attending court dates, and meeting deadlines. Often, people struggle to meet these requirements when representing themselves, costing them potential fines and favorable settlements. The team at Drury Pullen, A Professional Law Corporation, consists of qualified and experienced professionals who have a comprehensive knowledge of family law matters, proceedings, and requirements.
Let a skilled lawyer help you with your case, making sure that you are prepared for every meeting and helping you pursue a favorable settlement. Contact our office today.