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What does a settlement conference for a custody case entail?

Tacoma, WA |

My two year old son's father and I have a settlement conference scheduled next month in Pierce County. Unfortunately our case has been extremely high conflict. Our son resides with me and his father has limited supervised parenting time which he hasn't used in over six months. He hasn't completed the court ordered requirements to have the supervision lifted and the GAL recommends continuing supervision for the time being. The settlement conference has me nervous because I'm not comfortable agreeing to unsupervised parenting time and I doubt he'll agree to continue with supervision. What goes on at a settlement conference? Is there pressure to settle even if there are safety concerns? Knowing the process will help immensely. Thank you in advance for your time.

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You are under no obligation to come to an agreement. If you are not comfortabe with their proposals, don;t agree and go to trial. However, please be ware that if you do not have an attorney, going to trial will be very, very difficult becuase there are all sorets of court rules and procedures that must be followed. In Wa. state, Pro se parties (unrepresented persons) are held to the same standards as attorneys. “[T]he law does not distinguish between one who elects to conduct his or her own legal affairs and one who seeks assistance of counsel -- both are subject to the same procedural and substantive laws.” (Wherley) In re the Marriage of Olson, 69 Wn. App. 621, 626, 850 P.2d 527 (1993); In re Marriage of Wherley, 34 Wn. App. 344, 349, 661 P.2d 155, review denied, 100 Wn.2d 1013 (1983). This means that the Judge will expect you to know everything that an attorneys; ignorance of the law is no excuse and no defense if you make errors. So, keep that in in mind at the settlement conference -- can you litigate a custody case?

Please note that THESE COMMENTS ARE NOT INTENDED AS LEGAL ADVICE and are for informational purposes only. This response is not intended to create any attorney-client relationship and is only based on the limited facts given. The response might change should additional facts be learned and should not be relied on as legal advice. It is recommended that you consult with an attorney who can properly assess the situation, as well as all pertinent facts, prior to taking any action based on the foregoing statements



Thank you for your answer. I am working on getting a retainer together now. Currently we are both unrepresented. He says he will continue to represent himself, but I have no illusions about my ability to do the same.


You should schedule a free consultation with a good family attorney. It’s always best to consult with a good family law attorney to discuss the details before you act. See my AVVO Legal Guides on child custody cases and Alternative Dispute Resolution for more information about the legal issues raised by your inquiry. Click on my photo. On my AVVO home page click on "View Contributions" or scroll down further and click on "Legal Guides." Scroll down the list of my 29 Legal Guides and select the topics relevant to your question. If you like my answer and Legal Guides, please make sure you mark them as “helpful.”

This AVVO Answer is provided for general educational purposes only. By using or participating in this site you agree and understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the attorney responding, and no attorney-client confidentiality. The law changes frequently, and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The information provided in this Answer is general in nature and may not apply to the factual circumstances described in your question. The applicable law and the appropriate answer may be different in the State or States where the relevant facts occurred. For a definitive answer you should seek legal advice from an attorney who (1) is licensed to practice in the state which has jurisdiction; (2) has experience in the area of law you are asking about, and (3) has been retained as your attorney for representation or consultation. Your question and the attorney’s answer may be used for promotional or educational purposes

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