Though they may appear to never step down from their lofty perches behind the judge’s bench, Virginia’s judges really are just regular folks, aware of how little time other Virginians have for the often drawn-out pomp and procedures of a family law courtroom. A shortage of time is part of the reason for the 2003 creation of Virginia’s Judicial Settlement Conference Program, a process that has provided over 10,000 win-wins for civil law litigants (like you and your wife or ex-wife), retired judges, and family law attorneys. It can provide at least five big benefits to you.
What is a Judicial Settlement Conference (JSC)?
A judicial settlement conference is an alternative to a courtroom hearing or trial. Retired judges are trained to serve in the program, which allows both parties in a civil case to reach a settlement.
Trials are expensive. They consume enormous amounts of time, labor and mental exertion. Trials are labor-intensive, requiring judges, constables, court reporters, bailiffs, attorneys and you, taking time away from your children and job.
Judicial settlement conferences can often cut through a lot of legal machinations to get to the nitty-gritty of a case, such as divorce, child custody, or spousal support issues.
1. JSCs are Economical
Trial hours are the most expensive paid time in law. Some attorneys even charge more for being in court than they do for time in their offices (we do not, by the way), and with them may also come research assistants, paralegals, secretaries and others all expecting payment for their services.
Add to that any witnesses brought in for testimony, hired experts, and your own time away from your job to be in a courtroom. You represent only one side of a case, too, so all those costs are duplicated for your wife or ex-wife.
A measurable benefit to you of using a judicial settlement conference is the lower legal bill you will face.
2. JSCs are Efficient
Rather than face the stress of finding time in a court calendar, you and your wife or ex-wife can attend a judicial settlement conference to iron out any disputes and reach an agreement you can both agree upon, overseen by a skilled, retired judge as adept at mediation as she or he is at Virginia law.
The mediator takes an active role, guiding both you and your wife (or ex-wife) as you search for an answer that removes recrimination and substitutes resolution, so you can both get on with your lives.
Judicial settlement conferences are efficient uses of your time, a second reason to consider them.
3. JSCs are Private
The retired judge, acting as a confidential mediator, does not advertise any of the exchange leading to a settlement. Instead, only if and when a settlement is reached, the overseeing mediator reports to the trial judge the details of the settlement only. The cross-talk, accusations, tears and hurts evaporate.
Trials and hearings are public forums. Words and actions become part of a public record. The privacy afforded by a judicial settlement conference is a third benefit to all who wish to shield their reputation, name, or children from public scrutiny.
4. JSCs are Collaborative
Unlike a hearing or trial, the judicial settlement conference has at its core a more collaborative, less adversarial nature. Both sides enter the conference seeking a compromise, a settlement of their differences. While attorneys and the retired judge may politely allow a little venting, everyone’s goal is to move past the accusations and arrive at a mutually beneficial agreement.
The mediating, retired judge expects both parties (you and your wife or ex-wife; your attorneys) to participate in good faith. Each side airs its arguments, usually from separate conference tables, to prevent further emotional turmoil.
In a diplomatic journey back and forth between the two parties and their attorneys, the retired judge lays out settlement options based on Virginia law and norms seen in other settlements.
In an advisory capacity, the mediating judge can also privately lay out each side’s strengths and weaknesses. This often has the effect of calming an aggrieved litigant.
Emerging from this diplomatic exchange is a real settlement, one based not on your emotions or your wife’s emotions, but on case law and economic realities. The collaborative, supportive nature of the judicial settlement conference is a fourth benefit to both parties.
5. JSCs are Voluntary
A fifth benefit of using the judicial settlement conference is its voluntary nature. If settlement does not work, you still have a legal right to pursue a hearing or trial. You have lost nothing and gained an opportunity to get unbiased views of your case from a legal expert, the retired judge. If, during the conference, you hear strong support for your side, you and your attorney may feel you have a good chance to succeed in court.
If you call The Firm For Men at 757-383-9184, you can schedule an appointment to come down and get a tour of our conference room. We have a conference table, several conference chairs, and plenty of legal pads. We also have a team of top Virginia family law attorneys ready to defend your rights as a Virginia man. Contact us online or telephone today.