How Does A Status Hearing Work in Massachusetts Family Law?

Your case is heading toward a status hearing and you’re wondering what that means? What’s going to happen? Is there anything you should do to prepare?

The main purpose of a status hearing is to report to the court with an update on any progress made on previously-identified important issues and to determine the best next steps.The issues addressed at the hearing depend on what’s happening in the case and the issues and suggestions previously raised by the judge.

For example, If there’s a business involved in a divorce and there’s a valuation pending, the court may order a status hearing to give the parties time to complete the work and to discuss the results.

Another example is if the court orders a Guardian Ad Litem “GAL” (a professional who investigates custody issues) investigation. The court often schedules a status hearing about 90-120 days out to give the GAL time to do the investigation and submit the report to the court.

At the status hearing, the attorneys will often discuss the issues among themselves and attempt to agree on the next steps in the case. If progress is made, the attorneys and parties may then appear in front of the judge to report the latest developments and proposed plan.

Next, the judge will often make a suggestion to the attorneys and parties as to what the next steps should be. For example, it may be a recommendation for the parties to discuss a certain issue with some parameters set by the judge. Or a judge may recommend alternative dispute resolution, which is essentially mediation or conciliation, which is a process by which a neutral third party hears the facts and makes recommendations on how to resolve the case.

However, in cases in which a full agreement is unlikely, the judge will probably order the case scheduled for trial, which is the final event at which a judge hears and examines the evidence and makes a decision on outstanding issues.

Although a status hearing may seem perfunctory, it presents another opportunity to argue your case to the judge. Judges are constantly re-evaluating cases as they go through the various stages of the process. Therefore, being prepared for a status hearing and having an attorney argue your position effectively at the hearing can be helpful.

Status hearings are mainly used for the parties and attorneys to provide an update to the court about recent developments and discuss with the court plans for moving the case forward. Although major decisions are usually not made official at a status hearing, it’s another chance to persuade the judge, so don’t waste it.

If you have any questions about status hearings or family law in general, feel free to contact us.

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