What is a Special Masters Pretrial in a Connecticut Divorce?
In “What is a Pretrial in a Connecticut Divorce,” we learned that there are two types of pretrial conferences in Connecticut divorces: special masters pretrials and judicial pretrials. Today we’ll discuss special masters pretrials. A pretrial is a settlement meeting where the court brings together the parties in divorce litigation to assist them in settling. In a judicial pretrial, that person is a judge. During a special masters pretrial, one or two experienced divorce lawyers volunteer to assist spouses in resolving their disputes. In addition to representing our clients at special masters pretrials, Freed Marcroft’s attorneys also serve as special masters.
What Can I Expect at My Special Masters Pretrial?
Courts generally hold special masters pretrials in a courthouse conference room. Commonly, two attorneys serve as special masters. In addition, courts generally require spouses to attend pretrial conferences; often, they don’t actively participate with the special masters.
Instead, lawyers meet with the special masters. Each attorney presents her client’s view of the case and her client’s proposal for settlement. After hearing from both attorneys, the special masters give a non-binding settlement recommendation. The attorneys share that recommendation with clients, and settlement discussions continue. What occurs during a pretrial conference is privileged and may not be introduced as evidence if there’s a trial.
When Is the Special Masters Pretrial?
Pretrial conferences are regularly scheduled when parties enter into a Case Management Agreement — typically 90 to 120 days after the divorce begins. In addition, courts typically schedule pretrial conferences after most discovery is complete. This can set the stage for meaningful settlement discussions.
Read: Settlement & Divorce
What Does the Court Require Before the Pretrial?
Before a pretrial conference, both spouses must exchange a memorandum explaining the basics of the case. The parties must also exchange proposed orders that reflect what both parties seek, updated financial affidavits, and, if there are children, proposed Child Support Guidelines.
Read: What Is Child Support?
What Happens After a Special Masters Pretrial Conference?
If you reach a complete agreement at the pretrial, your attorneys will prepare a Separation Agreement outlining the terms of the agreement. Then, they ask the court to schedule an Uncontested Divorce Hearing. At the hearing, the judge formally dissolves your marriage. In other words, you are officially divorced. At Freed Marcroft, we have developed a library of client-only resources to help you prepare for the pretrial — both practically and emotionally.
If you resolve some issues at the pretrial, that’s a win too. Settlement discussions can continue. If you do not reach a holistic settlement, your case will ultimately go to trial with narrowed issues.
Read: ADR & Divorce
At Freed Marcroft, we want you to understand what is happening in your divorce. A skilled legal strategy rooted in your goals shines at pretrials. Our first step at Freed Marcroft, the Goals & Planning Conference, is designed to get to the heart of your problem and unveil your actual goals for your life. Once we discover your goals at the Goals and Planning Conference, we can take our collective experience with divorce, law, the available ways to divorce, strategy, courts, judges, and other lawyers and build a divorce customized for you.