An MSC is the shorthand term for a Mandatory Settlement Conference in family law cases. In essence, an MSC is a procedure by which the parties can meet to attempt to settle their case before heading to trial. According to the San Diego Superior Court Local Rule 5.2.8, divorcing litigants are actually required to attend an MSC before the court will give them a trial date.
Both parties and their counsel, if they have counsel, must be present at the MSC. A family law attorney will be appointed by the court to act as a temporary judge and assist the parties and their respective counsel with attempting to reach a settlement at the MSC. If the parties reach a settlement, then the terms of their settlement will be written down and all parties will sign the necessary paperwork to finalize their judgment. If a complete settlement is not reached, then the court will assign a trial date for the parties and their counsel to come back to court and litigate the contested issues.
Prior to the MSC, you or your attorney will need to prepare a settlement conference brief, which must state your proposal for resolution of each contested issue and the reasons for each proposed resolution. This settlement conference brief must be served to your spouse/your spouse’s attorney and the settlement judge no later than 4 p.m. three court days before the MSC date. The purpose of the brief is to help the settlement judge become familiar with your case and your position on each of the issues. In addition to preparing and serving the settlement conference brief, your attorneys are required to “meet and confer” either in person or over the phone at least five court days before the MSC. The goal is to identify the open issues and attempt to resolve as many of them as possible prior to the MSC. The results of the discussion must be included in your settlement conference brief.
The process of an MSC may sound similar to that of a mediation. However, an MSC differs in that it takes place in the courthouse rather than at an attorney’s or mediator’s office, it is conducted by a judge/temporary judge, and the parties do not have to pay a mediator’s fee. Also, MSCs are typically much shorter in time than mediation. Consequently, MSCs usually don’t result in settlements as often as mediations do. However, both MSCs and mediations are a voluntary process, meaning that the case will only settle if both parties are willing to compromise. The MSC judge will not make a binding decision about your case, like he/she will at trial.
Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding the divorce process. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.