Every piece of paper you receive in the mail regarding your divorce can cause anxiety, but when you receive the notice of your scheduling conference, don’t fret. A scheduling conference is what it sounds like: it’s an opportunity for the court to hear what the issues are, decide how complex your case is, and schedule other events that occur in the divorce process.
In some counties (Howard and Prince George’s counties, for example), the court can hold a hearing on the day of your scheduling hearing. In other counties (Montgomery & Anne Arundel counties, for example), the court does not hold hearings at the time of the scheduling conference.
To be prepared for your scheduling conference, here are some pro tips:
- Wear your Sunday best. This is a serious occasion and you should dress for it. You don’t have to wear a suit and a tie, but you should dress professionally. You are making an impression not just on the Court, but on the attorneys involved and the opposing party.
- Plan to arrive at court 30 minutes early. (Remember your mom saying, “If you are not early, you are late.”) Going to court is anxiety-provoking enough, do not make it worse for yourself. Plan for traffic on the road, and plan for a crowd at security as you make your way into the courthouse. Most courthouses have electronic boards that will list the parties by name and the courtrooms they’ve been assigned to.
- Bring your calendar. The court will set multiple other dates – for hearings, for parenting classes (if you have children), and for settlement conferences. These dates are hard (if not impossible) to change once you’ve committed to them, so make sure your calendar is up to date and make sure you alert the court if you have a conflict with a proposed date.
- Know what you need. The court will ask you if you need any court services (is there a drug/alcohol issue? Is there a mental health issue?) and whether mediation is appropriate. If you don’t know what services are available to you in your county, check beforehand so you can answer the court’s questions quickly and knowledgeably. If you are referred for services, you will likely have to do your intake directly after the scheduling conference, so be sure to listen to the court and look carefully at the papers you receive before you leave the building.
- Know what the issues are. The court will ask you what the issues are in your case. That doesn’t mean the court wants to hear the facts of your case, but the court has to determine the complexity of your case and how much time you need: are their support (child support/alimony) issues? Are there property issues? What other things does the court need to resolve?
- Make use of what is offered. The court might offer you an opportunity to try facilitation (a process similar to mediation that occurs at the courthouse on the day of the scheduling conference that is free). This can help resolve some or all issues. If you are referred to facilitation, go straight to the facilitation location after you receive your scheduling order from the court. Many times you have to check in to facilitation and it’s done a first-come-first-serve basis, so you may get seen faster if you hustle.
- Make sure to reserve enough time for your conference. While you need to be punctual, your case might not get called for 20 or 30 minutes (sometimes even longer in some counties). The court is usually scheduled for multiple cases at the same time, so be patient.
- Be polite. This may be your first experience in court, so speak in a loud, clear voice and be respectful to the magistrate or judge on the bench.
- If you are going to hire an attorney, do it before your scheduling conference. Because so many date-sensitive issues are resolved at the scheduling conference, it’s important that your attorney be available on the dates as they are selected. Your attorney can help the court understand the issues in your case, too.
McCabe Russell, PA, can help with your divorce or custody scheduling conference. Contact us for your consultation today.