Many litigants, particularly in highly contested divorce or custody modification actions, often insist that their case will never settle, and will ultimately need to proceed to a trial. In fact, only a very small portion of such cases which are filed in the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court proceed to a trial. This is due in part to one of the most important court dates for both lawyers and litigants alike: the pre-trial conference.
Settlement conferences in pending divorce and family law cases often result in the parties entering full and final settlement agreements. The parties in such a case appear at an uncontested hearing when they ask the Judge to approve and incorporate their signed agreement into the court's judgment. This settlement procedure takes place in lieu of the parties taking their contested issues to trial, after which the Judge enters a final judgment on behalf of the parties, which is a final resolution of the case not based on an agreement between the parties, but on the Judge's findings of fact and his or her application of the law to such facts, which must be presented to the Judge in accordance with applicable rules of evidence at trial. Trying a case can indeed be a very expensive and time-consuming process.