Before the conference, the judge will have read the briefs filed by you and your partner. How a judge holds the conference is entirely within their discretion. You may express a preference as to how you would like the conference to proceed, but it is up to the judge to decide. Judges frequently use one of two methods to conduct a conference:
- Where both you and your ex-partner have lawyers, the judge may call them into their office (known as chambers). After hearing from each lawyer, the judge will make recommendations for the lawyers to communicate to each of you. If you are not able to reach an agreement, the lawyers may return to see the judge in chambers, or the judge may call both of you into the courtroom or into the judge’s chambers. Judges sometimes meet separately with each of you to explain why they made the recommendations they did.
- Especially if either you and/or your ex-partner do not have a lawyer, the judge may call everyone into the courtroom. Each of you (or your lawyer, if you have one) will have a chance to explain what you want and to respond to one another. The judge will make orders on certain disputed issues (i.e., the amount of support) and will make recommendations on any other issue that they cannot decide that day but which may be helpful to you in settling your case. A judge may ask the two of you to take the opportunity to speak outside the courtroom to see if you can settle your case.
If you wish to bring someone into the courtroom with you, the usual procedure is to request the judge’s permission to do so.