After you serve and file the court papers, the court will send both parties a notice. This could be two to four weeks or, in the busiest courts, even later. In the meantime, you can call the court clerk if you want to check when your case is scheduled or to make sure they have received your paperwork.
The notice will give you a date and time to meet with a family law Magistrate. This will be your first meeting with the court. This is called a "Case Management Conference."
o Send a copy to the Plaintiff.
Court rules require you to do this at least three days before the conference. If you miss this deadline, bring the completed form to the Conference. Save copies for your own file. (The Plaintiff should have already filed and served this form along with the Complaint. If not, bring it with you to the conference.)
2. Read the Case Management Information sheet that came in the mail with your Conference Notice. You can get another copy here.
3. Be as prepared as you can on the issues that the Court Magistrate will bring up at the conference. Spend some time thinking about these issues. Discuss them with the other parent, if that's safe to do. Get more important details here.
Go to the conference. It is a critical step in your court case. Be prepared.
This is a time for you to let the court know what is going on with the children and what other issues will need to be decided. It is also a time for you to let the court know if there is something that you need right away. This can be any immediate issue that can't wait for later court decisions, such as:
The conference is held in a courtroom. It is run by a Family Law Magistrate. The Magistrate will try to move your case along by:
You may be ordered to attend a "Kids First" program. There you will learn about helping your children through the separation process. Also, we suggest our "Families Change Parents Guide," which offers you useful parenting strategies during this challenging time.
Note: If you need an interim hearing to resolve emergency issues before all of the above steps have been completed, the Magistrate will schedule that next.
Q. What is a "guardian ad litem" and do I need one?
A. Sometimes a "guardian ad litem" (GAL) is asked to look into difficult issues and recommend solutions. A GAL is a person trained to investigate problem issues and report back to the court on possible solutions. For example, a GAL might look into a parent's addiction issues and recommend whether this should affect parental rights. If you think your children would benefit from having a GAL, this is the time to ask. A Magistrate can appoint a GAL.
GALs charge an hourly rate. If you think that you need a GAL but cannot afford one, as the Magistrate whether the court would be willing to help you find a free or reduced-fee GAL. There is no guarantee of this. It may not be possible to have a GAL if you and the other parent cannot afford to pay and the court decides that your case does not require a GAL.
Learn more in our article: What is a Guardian ad Litem?