Status Hearings – Family Law Case Management in Divorce
Divorce Bifurcation – Status Conferences
Case Management Procedures in Family Law Cases
During a divorce case, there are typically a number of required hearings that occur before the case will be concluded. There are also a number of motions and alternative procedures that can be brought before the court to change the “normal” family law procedure for divorce cases. There are not one, but three sets of rules that must be reviewed that apply to “case management” procedures in divorce matters. First, there is the California Family Code. Second, the California Rules of Court – Family Law section includes many rules relating to family law divorce procedures. Finally, the Orange County “Local Rules” provide additional rules to tell litigants what hearings will occur and provide other guidelines.
“Family Centered” Case Management Family Code Statutes
California Family Code 2450 (and coinciding statutes) allows parties to a divorce case to request the court enter a series or orders regarding their judicial (court) management of their case, to set alternative deadlines, to add or reduce procedures, to appoint certain experts, reduce costs of litigation and expedite matters. The court is permitted to do any of the following:
- Order a neutral case evaluation
- Allow the parties to participate in “Alternative Dispute Resolution” or ADR, which includes private mediation
- Set discovery limits
- Set teleconferences with the court
- Modify any procedures by stipulation of the parties
- Appoint joint experts
- Bifurcate (i.e. “separate”) issues
- Make an attorney fee payment plan.
Status Conferences, Family Resolution Conferences and Case Management Conferences
The Family Resolution Conference, also called an FRC, Status Conference and Case Management Conference (CMC) are merely status conferences held by the court to gauge the status of a divorce case. The CMC is an outdated hearing name that is no longer used by still referenced by some attorneys. The FRC is scheduled immediately upon the filing of the divorce case, usually approximately 6 months from the date of filing. The purpose is to inform the court concerning the status of discovery, whether any motions are pending, the status of settlement negotiations, and other issues that may be pending. These hearings are relatively unimportant to a given case and family law litigants should not worry about this hearing date. However, when two parties are both unrepresented sometimes the facilitator will help try and resolve the case entirely on the date of the hearing.
Mediation is the process of informally trying to resolve a divorce case, or part of a divorce case, outside of court. Mediation occurs when parties and their attorneys meet with a privately compensated mediator, usually a retired judge or commissioner or expert in family law outside of court and work on settling. The mediator has no interest in the case and merely tries to help the parties settle. For additional information about mediation, please see our mediation page here.
Bifurcation means to separate issues. In family law divorce matters, “bifurcating” issues occurs to ensure that important issues are tried first that will have an effect on other issues in the case. For example, the issue of the parties “marital status” is commonly “bifurcated” during the divorce case under Family Code 2550. This may occur after the requisite 6 month waiting period has run its course and after the parties agree to the divorce (even though the rest of their divorce case issues remain unresolved) or one parties files a motion to request the court grant a divorce even though the rest of the issues will be dealt with by the court at a later date. Also, the issue of the parties’ date of separation is commonly bifurcated at an early stage of a divorce case so that the rest of the financial issues can be effectively managed. Many times, divorcing couples do not agree on their separation date. Because there could be financial consequences or differences depending on the date of separation, sometimes it is helpful to know what the date of separation will be so that assets can be properly divided.
For additional information about resolving your divorce case contact our office today. We often get phone calls from prospective clients whose case has dragged on for too long. We can help resolve it and provide a free, private consultation. Contact us today.