When a divorce case is filed with the court system, some counties, including Hillsborough County, will automatically schedule a Case Management Conference. Case Management Conferences, or status hearings, will be held throughout the pendency of your divorce case. Most clients, unless they have had prior dealings with the court system, do not know what to expect at this hearing. At a first Case Management Conference, it is typical to expect the judge to ask whether the parties have exchanged discovery, or financial disclosure, whether they have completed the parenting course if that applies to your case, and to ask whether the parties need a mediation order. This information will often be discussed very quickly, and in legalese. The judge is trying to make sure that the case is moving forward, and that everything that is required of the parties has been completed. If all discovery or disclosure has not been completed, the judge may order the non-complying party to comply within a specific time frame.
Once all of the required documents and disclosure have been exchanged, which is expected by the first court hearing, a mediation order will likely be issued. The mediation order, is exactly what it sounds like – an order from the court that the parties schedule and attend a mediation conference. This will help to continue to move the case along, so that the parties can get their case resolved within a reasonable amount of time. Often, a follow-up court date is provided as well. At the follow-up court hearings, the same types of issues are addressed. Is the case still progressing? Is there anything the court can do to assist the progression of the case? Is a trial necessary? Is everyone following the law and the rules of procedure?
These hearings are often “cattle call” dockets, which means that multiple cases are set at the same time. Some judges call the cases into the courtroom all at once, and your case will be discussed in front of the other people in attendance, while some judges call only one case in at a time. Regardless, you will not be able to control whether you are called first or last. Your actual case may take less than five minutes with the judge, but you may be at the courthouse for an hour if you are the last case called. Part of your attorney’s Job is to explain what to expect at these hearings, and to make sure that you are comfortable appearing. Make sure that you have had ample time to discuss what will happen at any court hearing with your family law attorney before you get to the courthouse. This will ensure that you are able to absorb the information being provided, and that you will understand what is happening the whole time.