What is a Special Masters Pretrial in a Connecticut Divorce?

white square with the black words What Is a Special Masters Pretrial? and the Freed Marcroft logo in the lower right cornerIn “What Is A Pretrial in a Connecticut Divorce,” we learned that there are two types of pretrial conferences in Connecticut divorces: special masters pretrials and judicial pretrials.  Today we’ll discuss special masters pretrials.

A pretrial is a settlement meeting where the court brings together the parties in a divorce litigation together to assist them in reaching a settlement.  In a judicial pretrial, that person is a judge.  In a special masters pretrial, one or two experienced divorce lawyers volunteer their time to assist spouses in resolving their disputes.  In addition to representing our own clients at special masters pretrials, Freed Marcroft’s attorneys also serve as special masters in courts across Connecticut.

What Can I Expect at My Special Masters Pretrial?

Special masters pretrials are generally held in a courthouse conference room.  Commonly, two attorneys serving as special masters. While spouses are required to be present in court for pretrial conferences, often they don’t actively participate with the special masters.

Instead, lawyers meet with the special masters.  Each attorney presents his or her client’s view of the facts of the case, as well as his or her client’s proposal for settlement.  After hearing from both attorneys, the special masters give a non-binding settlement recommendation.  The attorneys share that recommendation with clients, and settlement discussions continue.  What occurs during a pretrial conference is privileged and may not be introduced as evidence in the event of a trial down the line.

When Is the Special Masters Pretrial?

Pretrial conferences are regularly scheduled when parties enter into a Case Management Agreements — typically 90 to 120 days after the divorce begins.  Pretrial conferences usually take place after the majority of discovery has been completed, to set the stage for meaningful settlement discussion.

What’s Required Before the Pretrial?

Prior to a pretrial conference, both spouses must exchange a memorandum explaining the basics of the case.  The parties must also exchange proposed orders that reflect what both parties seek, updated financial affidavits, and if there are children, proposed Child Support Guidelines.

What Happens After a Special Masters Pretrial Conference?

If you reach a full agreement at the pretrial, your attorneys will prepare a Separation Agreement, outlining the terms of the agreement, and an Uncontested Divorce Hearing will be scheduled.  That hearing is where you will officially be divorced.  At Freed Marcroft we have developed a library of client-only resources to help you prepare for the pretrial — both practically and emotionally.

If you resolve some issues at the pretrial, that’s a win too.  Settlement discussions can continue.  If a wholistic settlement is not reached, your case will ultimately go to trial with narrowed issues.

Next Steps

At Freed Marcroft, we want you to understand what is happening in your divorce.  To learn more about the difference between a pretrial and a trial, please click here.

A skilled legal strategy rooted in your goals shines at pretrials.  Our first step at Freed Marcroft, the Goals & Planning Conference, is designed to get to the heart of your problem and unveil your true goals for your life. Once we discover your goals at the Goals and Planning Conference, we are able to take our collective experience with divorce, law, the available ways to divorce, strategy, courts, judges, and other lawyers, and build a divorce customized for you.

Schedule your Goals & Planning Conference today, or contact us either here or by phone at 860-560-8160.

Written by Meghan Freed