A Family Law Practice Devoted
to Alternative Dispute Resolution

Settlement Conferences

by Michael Tobriner

Michael has served for many years as a Settlement Conference Judge for the Family Law Departments of the San Francisco and Marin County Superior Courts. He has also served as a settlement conference judge for attorneys and parties who wish to hold a settlement conference out of court.

What Is a Settlement Conference Judge?

Parties and attorneys who are involved in family law litigation may wish to engage an experience, neutral family law attorney to conduct a settlement conference in a private, out-of-court setting. Parties and attorneys generally agree to such a conference after all of the information and documents in the case have been produced and analyzed and after settlement offers and counter-offers have been exchanged and discussed. The task of the settlement conference judge is to evaluate the parties’ respective positions on the legal issues presented, advise the parties on the strengths and weaknesses of those positions, and facilitate a negotiated settlement of the case. Before the settlement conference takes place, the parties submit to the settlement conference judge written statements summarizing their respective legal positions. The settlement conference then takes place, usually for a half-day or longer, with both parties and both attorneys present. If a settlement is reached, the settlement conference judge, with the assistance of the attorneys, usually prepares a written agreement, which the parties and counsel then sign.