9.13 Attend Judicial Case Conference

Resources:

Judicial Case Conferences, (JCC), are mandatory confidential discussions between you, your former spouse, your lawyers, and a judge or master, to see if you can resolve your differences. The judge or master may take a hands-on approach and try to mediate your disagreement, but that depends on their style. Some judges and masters prefer to keep more distance at a JCC and focus on making sure you know what you agree and disagree about and have all the necessary information to go to hearing. 

These sessions are also great ways to get the information you need. The judge or master can order that either party give documents to the other, or provide more details about an issue, called particulars. Just remember to be polite and courteous to your former spouse, their lawyer, and the judge or master. If you are being inappropriate, the judge or master will let you know. 

Neither of you can make an application (for an interim order) before attending a Judicial Case Conference. The court can sometimes make exceptions to this rule to protect people and property. But you can ask for a JCC even if you are not making an interim appplication.It can be a very effective way to move your case along.

Law Guide:

Check the Supreme Court Family Rules if you have specific questions about court processes. For example see SC Rule 7-1(15) for a list of the orders a judge or master can make.

Holding a JCC early in the process is important because it allows you to make applications sooner, if needed. Not only will you be able to ask for an order, you also have the chance to learn more about your former spouse’s position and other information, such as their financial situation. 

Attention: 

You usually cannot make an application for an interim order before you participate in a Judicial Case Conference.

 

Setting up a Judicial Case Conference 

Follow these steps to schedule a Judicial Case Conference:

  1. Exchange financial statements with your former spouse.
  2. Both parties must file their financial statements with the court, so the judge or master can review them
  3. Contact the court registry and ask about available dates for a JCC
  4. Contact your former spouse or their lawyer and mutually agree on one of the available dates
  5. Contact the registry and tell them what date works for both of you
  6. If your former spouse avoids scheduling a JCC, you can request and set one on your own
  7. Fill out a Notice of Judicial Case Conference (Form F19). Make sure you choose the correct location for the conference
  8. Serve the Notice of Judicial Case Conference on your former spouse

Self-Rep's Tip:

No one can force you to agree to anything at the Judicial Case Conference. Don’t feel pressured. Agreements need to work for BOTH sides. 

 

Your Discussion Is Confidential

Everything you discuss at the Judicial Case Conference is without prejudice, which means that it is off the record. Anything you say, including any settlement offers you present to your former spouse cannot be used against you or brought up later at trial. Similarly, you cannot use any settlement offers in court against your former spouse. Unlike open court, a JCC is closed to the public. 

This type of confidential discussion will allow you and your former spouse to be more flexible and better understand each other’s positions. Do not be afraid to speak up. Be heard, but remember to be polite.

 

Possible Outcomes

Here are some things that can happen as a result of your conversations at a JCC:

  1. Lawyer’s Tip:

    Even though many JCCs are informal, you should take it seriously. Be prepared to present the merits of your case.

    You might settle

  2. The judge or master can give an informal early opinion on how the case might turn out
  3. You might agree with your former spouse on an order which can be granted by the judge or master
  4. The judge or master might make an order for a request for particulars
  5. The judge or master might make an order relating to discovery
  6. You and your former spouse may agree to change a pleading, such as a Notice of Family Claim or Reply to a Notice of Family Claim
  7. You might agree with your former spouse to get more professional help to build off any breakthroughs you might have achieved
  8. If you have kids, you may be sent to take the Parenting After Separation Program
  9. The judge or master might make an order or set a date for a trial management conference, another judicial case conference or trial  

If you cannot agree to anything, the judge or master will inform you of the next steps to take (such as send you to mediation, order you to share information, set up another conference for you or could set dates for hearings. 

At the end of the JCC, you will receive a document outlining any orders and agreements that were achieved as well as detailing the areas of disagreement and the next steps in the court process. This document is called a case management plan. You may have to sign the case management plan.

 

Strategies for a JCC:

  • Review Key Issues Worksheet and assess the opportunities to reach settlement.
  • Be prepared to explain your position (why the judge should make the order you are asking for). 
  • Be open to and prepared to settle your case. 
  • JCC provides you with an opportunity to speak to a judge. Find out what the judge thinks would happen at trial, if possible. 
  • Use the JCC to get documents from your former spouse. (e.g. request for particulars)
  • Have a good understanding on what order you are seeking, and what you are willing to accept if you don’t get it all. 
  • Stay focused and respectful. Don’t start arguing with your former spouse. 
Note: Before you attend a JCC fill out the Judicial Case Conference Worksheet so that you are better prepared for it.