This type of settlement is our personal favourite because you get to have the free assistance of a judge to help you come to a mutual agreement. Psychologically and practically, settlement conference are extremely effective. Having a judge render a confidential opinion on your case and help both you and your spouse reach a settlement is vital to your case.
A settlement conference happens after you commence court proceedings. It happens through the Court and can happen at any stage after the Judicial Case Conference of your matter. You do not have to pay for the judge’s time.
I have come across some incredibly affective and empathetic judges such as the Honourable Justice Fenlon and the Honourable Justice Weatherill who work extremely affectively and help the parties reach settlement. A settlement conference could cost you much less than mediation or arbitration.
To schedule a settlement conference, you will need to contact the Supreme Court Registry and book time slots no more than 2.5 hour well in advance. A settlement conference should be agreed to by both parties. The Courts encourage settlement rather than trials so you can expect a pleasant and hopeful judge, motivated to help you reach a mutually satisfactory outcome.
Pros and Cons of Settlement Conferences
Pros of Settlement Conferences
- This type of negotiation usually carries the highest chances of settlement because well, you have a judge telling you what he/she thinks…trial will be no different so you are likely to take your chances and settle rather than going to trial;
- They are at most 1 day long and happen in Court;
- You do not have to pay for the judge’s time. If you do mediation or arbitration, you will have to pay for the mediator or arbitrator’s time;
- If a settlement is reached, it will form a consent Order and after 30 days (appeal period), it becomes a final judgement which is very difficult if not impossible to change; and
- You can seek and obtain your divorce at the same time as you settle all property matters assuming that you have lived separate and apart for one year. If you do mediation or arbitration, you will have to apply to the Court separately to obtain your divorce as divorce can only happen through the courts.
Cons of Settlement Conferences
- A settlement conference does not guarantee a final result. You and your spouse must voluntarily agree to a settlement and the judge cannot force an Order on you. This could mean you having to spend legal fees on a settlement conference without always obtaining a final outcome.
- You do not have to have a lawyer when attending a settlement conference although it is always recommended to have one to ensure you case is advanced properly before the judge. Many mediators and arbitrators will not conduct mediation or arbitration unless both parties have a lawyer.
For more information on settlement conference, please get in touch with us.