What Is a Mandatory Settlement Conference (MSC)?

There are very few steps to getting legally married. Getting divorced, however, is a complicated process and involves a lot of complicated maneuvers. One of the steps in California is a final effort to settle the matter. This effort is called a Mandatory Settlement Conference or MSC.

As the name implies, a Mandatory Settlement Conference is not optional. Both parties and their respective attorneys must attend. Some judges will conduct the MSC themselves in what’s called a “chamber meeting” and some will appoint someone else to conduct the conference as a temporary settlement judge, usually another family law lawyer.

Purpose of the MSC

The goal of the MSC is to resolve all of the issues before the court to finalize the divorce settlement and avoid going to trial. The divorce process is stressful and disruptive at best. As long as it can be done fairly, it is in the best interest of all parties and any children affected, to settle matters at the MSC so everyone can move on with their lives.

Preparing for the MSC

There is paperwork to prepare, steps to take, and decisions to be made before the MSC.

No later than five court days before the MSC, your attorney and your spouse’s attorney are required to “meet and confer.” They may do this over the phone or in person. This meeting is so each attorney can identify what the existing points of contention are and try to resolve them in advance of the MSC.

A settlement conference brief must be prepared by you or your attorney. This document will list each issue that needs to be decided, your proposal for resolving the issue, and the reason you are making the proposal. The brief will also include the results of the meeting.

The deadline for serving the settlement conference brief is at 4 pm, three court days before the conference. It can be served before that day and time but not after. You or your attorney must serve your spouse’s attorney, and if they don’t have an attorney, the settlement judge. Your attorney will receive a settlement brief from your spouse or spouse’s attorney by that day and time as well.

It’s important to meet with your attorney to discuss your spouse’s settlement brief. The goal is to identify which issues you still disagree on and whether there is room for negotiation to come to an agreement. The settlement attorney will use the briefs to get to know what issues need to be resolved at the settlement conference.

The Mandatory Settlement Conference

At the MSC, both parties and their attorneys will meet with the settlement judge to try to come to a resolution of all contested issues. The settlement judge does not have the authority to make any rulings. They are there to facilitate the meeting and work toward resolution. Even if all issues cannot be agreed upon, it’s important to settle as many as possible.

In the best-case scenario, all items can be resolved, and a settlement agreement can be written up at the MSC and both parties sign it. It will be submitted to the judge and the judge can enter it in as an order. However, even if all issues aren’t resolved, it’s important to have a written record of the items that were resolved.

Help with a Resolution

The Mandatory Settlement Conference is an important step toward resolving the outstanding issues and settling the divorce. It’s important that you have competent representation. Boyd Law attorneys are experienced family law negotiators who can help you safely navigate the MSC to resolve all issues fairly.