What Is the Family Law Status Conference in a Divorce Proceeding?

Have you ever seen attorneys advertising no contest divorces? If you know anything about court proceedings, you might understand that no contest divorces represent a very attractive proposition. Completing a divorce without requiring court intervention can get things done quickly and reasonably amicably. Otherwise, the family law status conference may be unavoidable.

Imagine a couple divorcing in Illinois. Both contact their attorneys to get things rolling. Soon after, they both receive notice of a family law status conference from the court. What is that document? What does it mean and why is it important?

ABM Family Law, a Chicago family law firm that specializes in divorce cases, say the states have different laws regarding status conferences. As a general rule though, such conferences are intended to give the courts an idea of how a divorce case is moving along. When necessary, judges can use the conferences to intervene.

The Couple’s Responsibility

What many people do not understand is that divorce is a civil matter into which courts only insert themselves if necessary. In other words, judges are not sitting around listening to divorcing couples make their arguments in open court. Almost all the heavy lifting is done among attorneys in their respective offices. Courts only need to be directly involved when it comes down to finalizing a divorce decree.

Moving the proceedings along is the responsibility of the couple and their attorneys. They work at whatever pace they decide to work. That is how attorneys can offer no contest divorces. If both parties agree not to fight with one another, the attorneys can generally work out satisfactory arrangements in a matter of months – perhaps even quicker in some cases.

As for the court’s notice of a status conference, it is essentially a deadline. That’s the date on which the court is set to review the divorce proceeding. If all goes well, the meeting is a mere formality. Attorneys present the plan to the court and, following review, the court signs off on it.

When Things Are Contested

In cases when one or more parties want to contest divorce proceedings, courts have to intervene. In such cases, the initial status conference would be designed to let the court know where the couple stands at the current time. Further conferences will be necessary as subsequent problems are brought to light and solved.

If you have ever wondered why contested divorces take so long, this explains it. There isn’t a court in the land looking for more work to do. Courts are backed up and delayed ad infinitum. So much so that receiving a status conference notice with the date more than a year off is not unusual.

The good news is that couples have a long time to work things out between themselves. The bad news is that if they cannot, the divorce proceeding simply drags on and on. We know who loses when this happens.

In jurisdictions where courts are especially burdened, requiring three or four status conferences could drag out a divorce proceeding for years. Imagine being three or four years from your initial filing and your divorce still not being complete. Or maybe you don’t have to. Perhaps you’ve lived it.

In a nutshell, a family law status conference is just what its name implies. It is a conference between judge, attorneys, and divorcing couples to update the court on where the divorce stands. In the best possible scenario, only one such conference is necessary. Couples are able to work things out through their attorneys so that the divorces can be finalized at that conference.