FAQ: “Pretrial Conference” in an Illinois Divorce?

If you are getting a divorce in Illinois, then you might run across the term “pretrial conference.” As an Illinois divorce lawyer, I often participate in pretrial conferences, and I know they can be somewhat confusing to people getting a divorce. Check out this FAQ on the subject of a “pretrial conference.”

What if I have a divorce lawyer who has not explained what a pretrial conference is?

Hmm. . . . how can I put this?

If you have a lawyer who has not explained to you what a pretrial conference is for, and a pretrial conference is imminent, then you need a new lawyer.

Hire me as your new divorce lawyer – or hire someone else. But for the sake of all that is good, think about hiring some other lawyer who will provide you basic information you need to know. You can check out this article about how to fire your Illinois divorce lawyer.

What is a pretrial conference in an Illinois divorce?

A “pretrial conference” is an informal meeting where the judge hears the basic facts of a case, or some aspect of a case, and recommends a course of action or a settlement in order to make the case more efficient.

A pretrial conference does not involve testimony, or the formal presentation of evidence; it’s really just a meeting with the judge to try to avoid some of the hassle and expense associated with litigation.

The fastest and most affordable way to get divorced in Illinois is an uncontested divorce in Illinois. But if that’s not possible, a pretrial conference can help.

Most Illinois divorces end in settlement – some sooner than others. A pretrial conference can be a valuable tool in helping a case settle before parties have wasted a bunch of money and time.

What is the purpose of a pretrial conference in an Illinois divorce?

The main purpose of a pretrial conference is for the judge to hear the basic facts of a case and to recommend a settlement that will allow the parties to avoid a trial.

However, a pretrial conference can also be held to help the judge understand issues in a case, even if a settlement recommendation is not expected.

Either way, the goal of a pretrial conference is to make the case more efficient. It’s to get you divorced. However, there are times when a pretrial conference has the opposite effect, such as when parties haven’t had time to gather enough evidence, or when it is clear the parties will not settle a case.

It is best to approach pretrial conferences on a case-by-case basis, and to consult ones lawyer about whether or not a pretrial conference makes sense.

When does a pretrial conference happen in an Illinois divorce?

Oddly enough, a pretrial conference need not happen right before a trial.

Also, there is no real need for the the term “pretrial,” because it is simply a “conference.” After all, if a trial already occurred, why would there by an “conference” at all?

All that being said, a pretrial conference can actually happen anytime the judge allows it to happen. In fact, a case might involve more than one pretrial conference.

Who attends a pretrial conference?

Most often, a pretrial conference is only for judges and lawyers – the parties do not attend.


Well, that doesn’t really matter, because that’s just how is. But if you are a fan of knowing things that don’t really help you, I can tell that you that the primary reasons is that judges believe it allows for more open communication which would be compromised in the presents of litigants.

Sometimes, after a pretrial conference, a judge will actually speak to the parties directly in order to allow the parties to understand why the judge is making a certain settlement recommendation.

Whether or not the judge addresses the parties really depends upon the judge. In my experience, some of the best judges will address the parties directly.

What should my attorney do to prepare for a pretrial conference?

Exactly what an attorney should do varies depending upon the facts of the case, including but not limited to what the other lawyer does, the overall procedural posture of the case, and the particular judge assigned to the case.

That being said, lawyer might take the following actions to prepare for a pretrial conference:

  1. Speak to client about examples of a reasonable settlement
  2. Analyze the facts of a case
  3. Prepare a pretrial memo
  4. Communicate with the other lawyer

What should my attorney do at a pretrial conference?

The following should occur at a pretrial conference:

  1. Lawyers present and overview of the case to the judge
  2. Lawyers explain specific issues to the judge
  3. Judge asks questions of both lawyers
  4. Lawyers make clear their clients positions in regards to the facts
  5. Judge makes a settlement recommendation

Of course, that’s simply an overview. Any given pretrial conference in Illinois might go a bit differently, depending upon the case, and the judge.

What if my lawyer doesn’t talk to me about a pretrial conference?

If your attorney does not talk to you about a pretrial conference, then well . . . . maybe you need a new lawyer. Check out this article if you want to fire your Illinois divorce lawyer.

You should be aware of a pretrial conference, and it makes sense for your lawyer to talk to you about what will happen. However, sometimes talking is a waste of time, and the client’s money. For example, perhaps the issues are so simple and well-understood that talking about a pretrial conference is a waste of time.

About the author: Contact Illinois family law attorney David Wolkowitz at 312-554-5433 or online. He is a family law and divorce attorney serving Chicago and the Counties of Cook, Champaign, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will. Areas of practice include divorce, uncontested divorce, child custody, visitation, spousal maintenance, child support, and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction & Enforcement Act (the “UCCJEA”).