The Initial Status Conference is an informal court appearance for the parties and their attorneys. Most of the time, these appearances are fairly routine and last for about 15 minutes. These conferences, because they are standard and routine, may cause some attorneys to give them low priority.
However, while it is almost always unnecessary to prepare you to provide sworn testimony to the court, many attorneys miss the opportunity to substantially move the client’s case forward at this conference. This conference is usually the first time that the parties and their attorneys meet in one place. Therefore, the Initial Status Conference is a great chance to attempt to work out some of the disputes between the parties and try to achieve goals that, if agreed between the parties, can help ease the tensions in the case.
If possible, the parties should exchange their Sworn Financial Statements at the Initial Status Conference, or preferably prior to the conference. In addition, the parties should be prepared to identify the disputed issues that exist in the case, and the next steps that need to occur to address those disputes. Below are a few examples:
Do you and the other party disagree concerning child custody issues? If so, be prepared to know whether you want to ask the court to appoint an expert, such as a Child and Family Investigator (“CFI”) to complete an investigation or a mental health professional to prepare a Parental Responsibilities Evaluation. You should also be prepared to provide a few candidates for the court to consider, and a proposal concerning how the costs of the expert should be divided between the parties.
Do you disagree on the valuation of a marital business? The Initial Status Conference is an important time to request that the court appoint an expert to prepare a business valuation concerning a business owned by one or both of the parties.